AP and Union Reach Quasi-Lucrative New Agreement

While the MTA and TWU kick one another in the shins and the rest of New York does its frozen crawl into work, we're happy to report that at least one union has settled its contract issues. The Associated Press and the News Media Guild has tentatively come to an agreement on new contracts, which would raise salaries and eliminate a mere 100 positions in the technical workforce. You win some, you lose some.

More significantly for the wins, the AP will designate at least 20 U.S. staffers as Senior Journalists, and they will be paid at least $114,000 annually. Hopefully this is enough to satisfy Slate's Daniel Gross, champion of media wage slaves.

After the jump, highlights from the proposed new contract (which is still subject to ratification by union members), complete with mouth-watering talk of pensions and health care.

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From: Jessica Bruce, Vice President, Human Resources
To: All AP U.S. Employees

Dec. 21, 2005

I m pleased to announce that The Associated Press and the News Media Guild and their Technical Unit - the two unions that represent AP s journalists and technical employees in the United States - have reached tentative agreement on new contracts.

The agreement was reached after negotiators worked through the night with the help of a federal mediator. It is subject to ratification by union members.

The proposed contracts would expire Nov. 30, 2008. You ll be hearing more details about them soon, but we wanted to share some of the highlights with you as soon as possible.

Wages. Scales for both editorial and technical employees would increase by 2.8% in year one, by 3.18% in year two and by 3.08% in year three.

Vacation. Employees would receive 5 weeks vacation after 20 years employment, down from the current 25 years.

Pension. No change to retirement plans for current News Media Guild employees. Employees hired after Jan. 1, 2006 would participate in a defined contribution pension, rather than a defined benefit pension. AP will make an annual contribution of 3 percent of salary to the defined contribution plan.

Health care. News Media Guild-covered employees will have two options for group health insurance: A core plan that lowers up-front contribution costs from those paid currently but increases potential back-end co-pays. Or a buy up plan that provides benefits and co-pays similar to the Guild s current plan, but requires a modestly higher monthly contribution cost.

Other changes. The negotiators agreed to a staff reduction plan that will reduce the technical workforce by about 100 positions so staff can be added to growth areas. The agreement includes severance pay for those leaving and transfer benefits for those who choose to move during restructuring.

Training. The AP will invest $1 million in a program to train journalists so they can best compete in today s swiftly changing media world.

• Certification pay for technicians was improved.

Senior Journalists. AP will offer at least 20 U.S. employees the designation of Senior Journalist to recognize their role as top performers. Senior Journalists will be paid a salary of at least two times top scale (at least $114,000 annually) and be eligible for an annual performance bonus of up to 10 percent of salary.

Geographic Differentials: Editorial. For editorial employees in Class C and D cities, differential pay will be added to their base before the initial general wage increase. Editorial employees in Class B cities will be moved into the Class A category. Going forward, there will be one geographic economic differential - Class A - of $125 a week in year one, $130 a week in year two and $135 a week in year three.

Geographic Differentials: Technology. All current economic differential payments (including Class A and B cities) will be included in the base salary for technical unit employees. Thereafter, economic differentials would be eliminated for all technical unit employees.

Earlier today, the News Media Guild s Executive Committee and the National Technology Committee voted to send the tentative agreements to separate ratification votes, subject to final review of language Thursday.

AP believes this is a strong contract, particularly given the radical changes our industry is undergoing. In the past several weeks alone, we ve seen the steady drumbeat of cuts at major news organizations across the country.

This agreement improves wages and helps position the AP and its unionized employees to succeed and prosper in this rapidly developing landscape.