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Guild seeks new talks with management


The Providence Newspaper Guild hopes that a recent National Labor Relations Board decision in the union's favor will spark renewed contract talks with management after an 11-month absence. Union members unanimously voted to "immediately resume contract negotiation, including off-the-record sessions if necessary," but managers at the Providence Journal have yet to respond to an October 2 letter sent by the Guild

"We are cautiously optimistic," says Guild administrator Tim Schick. "Based on recent events, there appears to be a willingness to talk with the Guild and to work out agreements on small things. Over the past three to four weeks, we have worked out settlements on about half-a-dozen longstanding grievances, as well as working out an acceptable compromise on medical insurance for the year 2003."

The Guild's bargaining position improved after NLRB judge William G. Kocol ruled in early September that the Providence Journal Company took part in a series of unfair labor practices against the Guild. At the time, a Journal lawyer expressed hope that the issues would be settled at the bargaining table (see "NLRB judge rules in Guild's favor," This just in, September 20), but Mark T. Ryan, the company's executive vice president and general manager, didn't return a call seeking comment earlier this week.

As part of the agreement on medical benefits, the Journal Company is offering domestic-partner coverage and an optional medical savings account that allows workers to earmark pre-tax earnings for uncovered health expenses, including co-pays and dental work.

According to a Guild newsletter, reporter Tracy Breton was troubled that the union would agree to a plan that increased co-pays for two health plans -- although not the one with the greatest amount of participation by members. Guild secretary John Hill responded by describing the company's decision to talk about health coverage as "a test of our sincerity and willingness to negotiate. If we turn this down, we're sending them a message that we don't want to talk."

The last contract for the Guild, which represents almost 500 reporters, advertising workers, and other ProJo employees, expired in early 2000, contributing to strife and morale problems at the paper. Negotiations haven't been held since November 2001.

In related news, Guild members unanimously voted to accept the terms of a new five-year contract for Schick, who has been Guild administrator for 12 years. The contract is subject to ratification in a referendum.

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis[a]

Issue Date: October 11 - 17, 2002