October 18, 2016
Bargaining Update: At A Crossroads
IAPE members — We have reached a real crossroads moment in these contract negotiations with Dow Jones. Please read this note closely, as your input will be very important in the coming weeks.
This morning the IAPE bargaining team met for the first time in two weeks with company negotiators, and the talks were not promising. We had hoped the company would use the time it had opted to spend away from the bargaining table to find common ground with us, especially after we've made extra efforts to reach a compromise. Instead, the company made a proposal on wages that backtracks from its previous position.
The latest DJ proposal sticks with its call for 2% raises each year in a three-year agreement, retroactive to July 2016, coupled with higher costs for health care. But now Dow Jones wants the option to terminate the contract for either the second or third years. That would mean the company's already underwhelming offer wouldn't be guaranteed after this year.
DJ negotiators say business conditions now necessitate that they have this flexibility. We were told today that Dow Jones' business "is going through a transformation." There is volatility in the advertising-sales market and "there is no evidence that the trend will reverse," we were told.
These claims contradict the cheery public statements that CEO Will Lewis has traveled the world to make. Indeed, the public behavior of company parent News Corp has suggested it has more cash than it knows what to do with, flying Will and other top executives first class, doling out a 10% ($1 million+) raise to Robert Thomson and a 5% raise to Rupert Murdoch, instituting a dividend for investors. It's as if the only thing they know they won't do is give employees a decent contract.
Nevertheless, we were told that senior managers are now in discussions as to how best to deal with the suddenly-discovered problems, which is why they canceled bargaining sessions the last two weeks. We were told to expect a company restructuring announcement soon. It is not clear what this may look like or whether it will be significantly different than the types of changes DJ has been hinting at for some time.
Management, we were told, is looking at the company's cost base, the business as a whole and how it can proceed in the current business environment. DJ officials in no uncertain terms Tuesday said union members "shouldn't expect a proposal that's better."
Given DJ's ongoing internal business deliberations, we aren't scheduled to meet again until November 1. By that time, whatever decisions made by management may be disclosed to employees.
Today we informed DJ reps it would be impossible for IAPE to respond to this latest wage proposal without more information about the company's "transformation." All management could tell us today is that these anticipated changes will affect Dow Jones — that they weren't aware of any plans for News Corp as a whole.
And now, we wait. Once we have a better picture, we're all going to have to make a collective decision on how to proceed. One thing is clear, however: this company will not do the right thing without a significant escalation in collective actions by IAPE members. Getting a fair contract will require an intensified commitment from each of us. The union simply is us, in an organized form; there's no separate force that will come to our rescue.
In the meantime, we welcome your continued feedback on contract bargaining. And if you have any questions or concerns about these latest developments, please contact the IAPE office or reach out to a member of the IAPE bargaining team.