October 3, 2014

Newspaper Guild vying for new contract with Time Inc.

By Marc Bussanich

New York, NY—Negotiations with Time Inc. and The Newspaper Guild began in earnest in January but still the two sides haven’t reached an agreement because the company rejects outright any counter proposal the union makes.

On Monday afternoon the two sides met again to try to hammer out a new contract, but Anthony Napoli, a Newspaper Guild representative and negotiator, said there was very little progress because every time the union offers a counter proposal to preserve job security for their members, the company doesn’t want to discuss it.

“We’ve tried to be creative to allow the company to be competitive in the future, but there’s no reciprocation on making sure our folks are comfortable that they’ll have jobs in the future,” said Napoli.

The Guild represents about 300 members at Time Inc., who work at Time Inc.-owned publications such as People, Sports Illustrated, Time, Money and Fortune. There are several issues that the Guild is trying to reach agreement with Time Inc., such as subcontracting, job security, layoffs and new vacation schedules for new hires.

Napoli said the union isn’t opposed to subcontracting, but the union wants to make sure that a Guild member is placed in another job where there is an opening.

“We’ve told them that we aren’t opposed to them placing our folks in any other [editorial] product whether it is covered [by a collective bargaining agreement] or not, but we want that person to be covered under contract,” Napoli said. 

He said that the company responded by questioning the union whether they have to tell a department head to hire a Guild-represented member.

“We said yes. If there is an open position, give the writer a trial period. If he or she fails it, then they can obviously terminate the employee. But the company answered that they wouldn’t guarantee it, that they would only guarantee an interview with human resources and then maybe if that writer could be matched up for a particular job they would direct that writer to a department head. We said that’s not good enough.”

On vacation days the company has proposed different vacation schedules for new hires. Currently, all Time Inc. employees get three weeks vacation, but the company wants new hires to receive only two weeks vacation for the first five years of their tenure.

“We countered with a proposal for new hires to get three weeks of vacation after three years of service, but the company just rejected it. They don’t want to bargain, they claim this is their bottom line."

Apparently the company is banking on the union accepting their last, best and final offer. If the union puts that up to a vote and the members vote for it then they’ll have a new contract, albeit with fewer benefits. If the members reject the proposed contract, then the company could impose an impasse.

But Napoli said the union hasn’t decided whether to put to a members’ vote the company’s last, best and final offer. In an interview on Wednesday afternoon Napoli said he was waiting to receive a revised last, best and final offer from the company, but as of Friday morning he still hasn’t received one.

Time Inc. was just spun off from Time Warner. Napoli said that might be complicating negotiations because the company is now a stand-alone and is saddled with about $1.2 billion in debt.

During recent negotiations with the company, when the union was arguing for writers writing for Time Inc.’s online properties to be covered under a collective bargaining agreement, the company refused.

“At one point in the negotiations we got a frank answer from their counsel who said that if they agreed to that, it would make it harder for the company to sell itself. It’s a lot easier to sell without a labor contract,” said Napoli.




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