Modesto Bee negotiations begin


modesto-bee-buttonThe Guild and company opened negotiations on the full contract Tuesday. The current contract expires Dec. 31. All areas of the contract will be open during this time including wages, benefits, expenses, work schedules, job functions and severance pay.

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 Bob Ford, Editor Joe Kieta and VP of Human Resources Cathy Allison.

The general tone of the initial meeting was cordial. The company and guild laid out their respective areas of interest and issues they hope to address during bargaining. General concepts were shared, though no formal written proposals were exchanged.

Highlights from the company’s concept proposals:
– Benefits: To “centralize” and create more uniform language which could include health insurance, sick leave, short and long-term disability and vacation benefits.
– Job Functions: Look at requiring all reporters to take photographs and other non-reporting functions and also judging them on that non-reporting work in reviews. (And vice versa for photographers). Currently the contract allows them to assign reporters to take photos and vice versa, but cannot review them on the quality of the work produced (the exception for this is new hires since the date of the last contract).
– Split-Shift: Create a split-shift work schedule, which would mean reporters could be required to work morning and evening shifts in the same day.
– Mobile Reporter: Create a “mobile reporter” job description that would have a reporter in the field and not in the office.
– Furloughs: The company wants to have the right to do furloughs. In the last furlough agreement, the company used all four weeks of furlough that were granted in a three-year period.

Highlights from the guild’s concept proposals:
– Wages: Increases to wages, merit increase ratios, review of minimums and request for no pay reductions during the course of the contract.
– Severance: Lift the 26-week cap on severance pay.
– Job Security: Add language to provide for voluntary termination incentives (buyouts) prior to layoffs. Provide notice pay for employees laid off involuntarily.
– Vacation: Add a fifth week of vacation with 10 years of service.
– Sick Leave: Provide for an additional floating holiday and/or a wellness day.
– Expenses: Increase cell/data reimbursements, raise mileage reimbursement rate to IRS rate, review numbers in auto insurance reimbursements.

The guild and company will meet again at 1 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Teamsters Hall, at I and 13th streets. You are welcome and encouraged to attend any or all of the negotiations. Feel free to bring your lunch and sit in.

Once a final contract is negotiated, only dues-paying members will be allowed to vote to ratify. The terms of the contract will cover all of the non-managerial employees in the Modesto newsroom. Please consider joining (or rejoining) the guild during this critical time. Dues are $48.53 a month for reporters/photographers under six years of experience or $55.71 a month for those with more than six years experience.

If you have questions on any of the concept proposals raised today, joining the guild or anything else, feel free to ask.

Marijke Rowland
Modesto Unit Chair

Modesto Bee bargaining team: Marijke Rowland, Joanne Sbranti, Carl Hall (guild staff) and Kat Anderson (guild staff)

Company bargaining team: Joe Kiete, Cathy Allison, and Bob Ford (counsel)

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