‘Off-the-Record’ Contract Talks Continue

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The Guild and BBNA management for the past couple of weeks have been conducting negotiations in “off-the-record” talks.

In these off-the-record talks, each side has agreed not to publicize anything said during the discus- sions or reveal any proposals that might be exchanged. That is the primary reason you haven’t heard much from us during a period when you’d normally expect regular bargaining updates.

So far, there have been three of these sessions with four representatives per side, as well as two or three other, less formal talks involving fewer members on each side. The off-the-record talks are scheduled to continue this week and next. BBNA has set a December 15th deadline for an agreement on what it calls its “alternative” proposal.

Your bargaining team is working hard to try to find a way to an agreement, but it’s been a tough slog. Our rank-and-file team is juggling meetings with management, meetings within the Guild bargaining team, as well as the demands of our full-time jobs.

While we cannot reveal what’s being said in the off-the-record negotiations, we can report that we have made multiple proposals in a attempt to narrow our differences.

In management’s “alternative” proposal, pay raises comparable to current increases would con- tinue for two years. In return, BBNA wants approximately 50 concessions from its employees, which pre- sumably would continue long beyond that two-year period, whereas the fate of automatic pay raises isn’t so certain into the future.

Those take-backs include ending an employee’s right to flexible work arrangements by giving man- agement complete discretion in awarding or taking away FWAs; giving BBNA the right to unilaterally cut health insurance benefits or increase co-pays, deductibles, etc; and shift insurance premiums to a percent- age basis (up to 35%) starting in two years; requiring new parents who take more than 30 days of unpaid leave to pay the full health insurance premium; barring the Guild from filing grievances over the misclassi- fication of employees as supervisors; giving management the right to hire an unlimited number of “contractors” who have no union protections for up to one year; cutting overtime payments; and having the right to schedule employees for nights or weekends and eliminating extra pay for weekend work.

A more comprehensive list of takebacks is available at WBNG.org.

Health care is shaping up to be a major issue. We have told BBNA on the record — even before these negotiations started — that we wanted to work with management to avoid the Affordable Care Act excise tax (the plan is fully compliant with the law; the excise tax is the only issue).

But BBNA would like to shift huge amounts of health care costs to employees, over and above what is necessary to avoid paying the tax under the ACA. Yet according to figures provided by manage- ment, health care costs for Guild-covered employees have actually gone down during the course of the current contract.

We will continue to provide updates as much as we can. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask a member of the Guild bargaining team: Laura Francis, Bruce Kaufman, Gary Diggs, Ben Cooper, Tammy Madison, Daren Neuben, Steve Cook, Catherine Kitchell, Ken May, Rob Tricchinelli, Rebecca Trinite, and Rachel Martin.

Units in this article: Bloomberg-BNA