The guild and company returned to the table to continue full contract negotiations Thursday. This occurred after the company announced that it would lay off two Modesto Bee editorial staff before the end of the month. Two senior guild members are leaving their posts as a result.
The company came to the table with a second comprehensive written proposal. The proposal remained largely unchanged from the original company proposal given to the guild Nov. 18. The company did drop language that gave it the right to convert up to four full-time employees to part-time employees and added language to comply with EDD requirements for voluntary buyouts in the place of involuntary layoffs. This will ensure those employees who take buyouts would remain eligible for unemployment benefits.
The guild countered with its own second comprehensive proposal, which dropped language including the creation of a sick leave volunteer bank, wellness day, fifth week of vacation, increase in layoff notice time and the increase to the IRS rate for mileage.
After some back and forth, the company agreed to extend the rehire list for employees laid off due to a reduction in force to three years and provide written notice of openings to the guild. The company also tweaked its language on cell and data/internet reimbursement. The company agreed that employees shall receive no less than their current rate of cell and data reimbursement ($30 for cell and $30 for data/internet per month) without providing additional documentation with the possibility for more depending on actual costs. Anything over the $30/$30 amounts would require additional documentation.
However several key areas remain open. Those include:
– Split Shifts: The company countered with language to say split shift schedules would only be done with mutual agreement between the management and the employee. The guild countered to say the company could create no more than two split shift schedules with mutual agreement between the management and the employee. It would be the employee’s right to refuse any split shift schedule.
– Wages: The guild wants to adjust the existing merit pay raise scales. Currently no full-time employees fall into the lowest classification, under $699 a week, which receives the largest raises.
– Severance: The guild wants to reinstate severance pay levels, currently capped at 26 weeks, to 40 weeks. The guild indicated it would be open to a number under 40, but still over the current 26 weeks.
– Job Duties: The guild and company remain at odds on their provision allowing for judgment of the quality of dual work (reporters taking photos/videos and vice versa). The guild wants language saying dual work may only be judged if adequate training is given.
– Benefits: The guild objected to what the company has called streamlining of benefits language to eliminate clauses pertaining to the rights to life insurance, spousal/domestic partner benefits and a 30-day period before benefits start for all employees. The company says the intent is not to eliminate those benefits, and they have the right to do so anyway with current language already. The guild wants the language to stay as is.
– Furloughs: The company countered with a proposal offering five weeks of furlough over the three-year contract. The guild countered back with a proposal for four weeks of furlough over the three-year contract (up to one each year with one floating week).
The guild and company will meet again Feb. 5. The company said it will return to the table with another comprehensive proposal which will address the still open areas of the contract and formalize language for the agreed upon areas.
Meeting for the guild was Executive Officer Carl Hall, Administrative Officer Kat Anderson, Modesto Unit Chair Marijke Rowland and Bee reporter Joanne Sbranti. At the table for the company was McClatchy attorney Aaron Agenbroad, Editor Joe Kieta and VP of Human Resources Cathy Allison.
A special thank you to Joanne Sbranti for her service to the Guild and this bargaining committee. Joanne will be retiring from her work as a reporter in the next few days. We will miss her.
Please let Marijke know if you are interested in serving on the bargaining committee.