Sac Bee offers merit pay, tweaks ad commissions and seeks Fresno copy editors

Guild negotiators reached a tentative agreement Friday with Sacramento Bee management on reopeners of the contract covering Bee newsroom and advertising employees.

The agreement contains a merit pool of 2 percent. Guild members at the Sacramento Bee will need to ratify the proposed new contract in order for it to take effect.

Friday’s contract talks included limited discussion of a new company proposal to place the Fresno Bee copy editors under the Sacramento-based editorial production center, while allowing them to continue to work from the Fresno office.

Company representatives said no layoffs are anticipated in Fresno, and said no one will lose pay or benefit status. The Guild must agree before the Fresno employees could transfer to a different contract. A meeting with unit members in Fresno will be scheduled as soon as the company prepares a written proposal we can discuss.

Bargaining was held at the Sacramento’s Double Tree Hilton. Representing McClatchy were Rita Blomster, California McClatchy Multi-platform desk day chief; Linda Brooks, vice president of human resources; and Jones Day attorneys Bob Ford and Aaron Agenbroad. Ford is retiring at the end of the year. Agenbroad is Ford’s announced replacement.

Bee reporter Ed Fletcher, copy editor Ed Fishbein, Pacific Media Workers Guild executive officer Carl Hall and administrative officer Kat Anderson represented the Guild.

The first half of Friday’s bargaining session was devoted to the contract covering Bee content producers and advertising staff, colloquially referred to as the “Legacy” agreement.

Hall offered a new technology proposal committing the management and the Guild to a joint innovation program. The proposal was geared to support rapid embrace of mobile devices, development of new ways of delivering the news, incentives to integrate new technologies into the business, coordinated training efforts and support for employee purchase of new technologies.

Brooks said the Bee is already moving in this direction, citing training programs and an employee discount program for smart phones and data plans.

After some back and forth on other issues, the two sides tentatively agreed on the following provisions:

  • A tweak to the ad commission section of the contract allowing the company more leeway to change sales goals within specified limits. Changes could amount to as much as 30 percent of the original goal, up from the current 15 percent, and a change can be made as late as 15 days into a quarterly sales period.
  • Another change to the ad commission plan would steer a slightly greater share of revenue from joint sales calls to the digital “interactive specialist” and a lower share to the account manager. The company wants to encourage ad sales people into selling online advertisements on their own, without the assistance of the interactive specialists.
  • Vacation scheduling rules would ensure all employees, including those with little seniority, could take at least one of the three major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s) off every three years.
  • A change to the cell phone reimbursement program removes the $60 per month cap on cost. New language provides reimbursement for actual costs, but allows the company to substitute its own equipment to keep costs down. Guild representatives made it clear that it expects the company to reimburse anyone if there are costs of making a company-ordered change.

After a final review of contract language, Guild leaders will announce a membership meeting as soon as possible to consider ratification. Anyone who is part of the bargaining unit and wants a full voice and vote in our union can join at any time.

Regarding the production center agreement and the changes concerning the Fresno desk, the company already has the right to shift production work from Fresno to Sacramento. But few, if any, Fresno employees would be expected to move that far to keep their jobs. The plan now being discussed would offer employees a chance to keep working at the Fresno office.

Management said no employees would be forced to take a cut in pay, and some will receive a pay hike as a result of the shift. The change in employer and contract status would happen around early summer. Seniority and tenure would be protected. However, no severance would be paid so long as employees kept working, under the management proposal.

Brooks said the move would be aimed at creating efficiencies. About 12 positions, including copy editors, designers and digital specialists, would be included in the move.

Discussion regarding the production center agreement will resume Jan. 22 at 10 a.m. at the Double Tree. The Guild plans to meet before then in Fresno with affected members, as soon as details of the company proposal are provided in writing.



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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer

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