March 25, 2010

Contract Bargaining: Tentative Agreement

IAPE and Dow Jones have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract.
The package has been endorsed by the IAPE Bargaining Committee and by the union's Executive Council. It will be submitted to the full IAPE Board of Directors at the Board's April 10th meeting for review. The package will be submitted to the membership for a ratification vote before the end of April.

While not the contract that any of us would have written if we could have written it alone, we're convinced this is the best deal we can get with Dow Jones right now. Given the generally dismal condition of the news business — and the discouraging pattern of recent contract agreements across the industry — we're convinced this is a deal that must be ratified.

The company began these negotiations with a demand for blanket waivers covering every core element of the contract — and a demand that we surrender any right to negotiate wage increases, insisting, instead, that any future pay increases — or pay freezes — be at the sole discretion of management. We beat back each and every one of those demands.

The company bargaining team will tell its bosses that IAPE has agreed to the same wage freeze imposed last year on non-union employees. The DJ bargaining team was under orders to deliver such a "freeze." Without it, there would be no contract. And although base rates don't change until July 1, 2011, we've still managed to put more money in your pocket this year.

Even though the company steadfastly refused lump-sum payments, signing bonuses, deferred raises and any other direct increase in weekly wages, we did negotiate a July 1st switch to the new (and better) health care plan, which will mean lower premiums immediately for more than 90% of IAPE members while maintaining current coverage. Those lower premiums are real money that you'll see in your check every payday.

The wage increases in years 2, 3 and 4 are smaller than we wanted (and much smaller than you deserve), but they're all we could get — and they are still better than the rest of the industry. We will receive a 2% increase on July 1, 2011 another 2% on July 1, 2012 and 2% on July 1, 2013 — and we've preserved Cost of Living (COLA) Protection as well. We're confident in telling you that we didn’t leave a single nickel on the table.

We have enhanced severance, maintaining the existing 52-week cap for 26 years of service, preserving the basic guideline of 2 weeks severance for every year on the job, and we've held on to the extra 4 weeks' pay for layoffs due to outsourcing, while expanding company-paid portions of post-layoff medical care for employees with more than 9 years on the job and adding outplacement assistance to the existing retraining benefits. We have maintained seniority protections, beating back the Company's initial proposal that would have gutted your seniority rights.

Stand-by pay is increasing July 1, 2010 ($160 @ week for overtime eligible employees and $200 @ week for overtime exempt employees). Shift differential is increasing July 1, 2010 ($100 @ week for either the overnight/early morning shift or the evening shift).

Anyone making less than a thousand dollars a week (almost 30% of the membership) will be able to "cash-in" a week of vacation.

"Minimum increases" for the lowest paid employees will be calculated on a threshold of $1,000 a week and will translate into $20 per week raises, or between 2.5% and 3.5% a year for the majority of those members paid under the minimum dollar salary level. At the same time, IAPE and Dow Jones have agreed to a formal review of all job scales, with the expectation that the process will result in those scales being increased, another direct benefit for the Dow Jones employees on the lower end of the salary range.

Premium pay for working on your regularly scheduled day off is changing.

For those who are eligible for overtime, premium pay will be paid for every hour worked. The 5-hour-minimum disappears, but in exchange the company has dropped its long-standing contention that working at home doesn't qualify, agreeing to premium pay, regardless of the location — and agreeing, for the first time, that it'll pay OT for work assigned on a vacation day (and you'll still keep the day to be used at a later date).

For those who aren't eligible for overtime, the age-old informal system of 'comp time' is being written into the contract, with some significant enhancements. Managers will be required to log 'comp time' (credited at the rate of an hour and a half for every hour worked) and will have 90 days in which to schedule the time off or will be forced to pay the 'comp time' out in cash. A premium is still payable for some work when performed at a Dow Jones office or an "assigned" location.

The biggest loss is in the Money Purchase Plan.

We managed to negotiate a 6-month extension of the retirement savings plan and to win considerable enhancements in the 401(k) contributions made by the company, but there's no denying that the loss of the Money Purchase Plan is going to hurt a significant number of members. We tried to save the plan or craft an alternative that would continue at least a portion of the past Money Purchase Plan contributions, but we couldn't move the company.

All of the details of the package will be posted on the IAPE website — and IAPE president Steve Yount will be visiting Dow Jones locations across the country in the next month to talk about the package and answer your questions. In the meantime, if there's anything you need, let us know — or reach out directly to union organizer Tim Martell.

IAPE Bargaining Committee
Steve Yount
Bob Kozma
Rob Johnson
Patricia Corley
Erin Rodgers
Andy Georgiades
Amy Merrick
Bruce Nelson
Tim Martell