Closing the Deal
Does JTA management know how to conclude negotiations?
It’s the stuff that nagging recurring dreams are made of: Every time you’re just about to get to where you want to be, something happens that screws it up.
And so it is with the Guild’s marathon effort to wrap up a new contract for its members with the management of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Unit Chair Marc Brodsky and Local Representative Susan DeCarava have met with JTA Editor in Chief Ami Eden and Director of Finance and Administration Lee Silverstein a total of 16 times this year, including 10 – at the Guild’s urging – since June. We made countless proposals and accepted significant changes to accommodate to management’s demands for “greater flexibility” and “room to grow.” And yet, we still do not have an agreement.
More than once we thought we had just about everything wrapped up, only to be told by management that there was just one more thing they wanted. At the August 15 session we thought we were finished with everything except a wage increase. Eden and Silverstein said they were waiting for approval from JTA’s board. A month later, we’re still waiting.
At this point you have to wonder if these people even know how to close a deal – not just a labor contract, but any deal. We could certainly make a case that they’re not bargaining in good faith. But we’d much rather get the deal done than litigate at the National Labor Relations Board.
During these past months, Guild negotiators have worked hard to preserve the core protections of our contract while compromising on issues that management says will help fuel the continued growth. JTA management began these negotiations with onerous proposals to eliminate wage scales, job security, and just and sufficient cause for dismissals. Management was also seeking the unlimited right to subcontract our work. After months of negotiations, those proposals are now withdrawn.
Among the management initiatives we have tentatively accepted are a framework of gradual increases in single-employee contributions for health insurance over three years, so that everyone in the unit pays 25 percent of the premium. (Right now, only members with family coverage make contributions). We also agreed to a lower starting salary for new employees.
Guild members will see some gains as well, with increases in the employer match on 403(b) contributions, in vacation accrual, and in weekend holiday scheduling. In addition, we have negotiated new editorial job classifications and a lower years-of-service trigger for full payment of disability taxes.
We’d love to go into greater detail about all of the tentative changes in the new contract that will benefit both Guild members and the company, but first management needs to tell us that we have a deal.
We’ve heard your complaints that management isn’t placing enough importance on these negotiations. Management has heard them too; it’s one of the reasons we were able to schedule so many bargaining sessions in the past four months to get us to the point where we almost have a new contract – almost being the operative word.
We want a deal; your negotiators have bargained hard for a deal. Where we go from depends on whether management acts in good faith and returns to the table with a deal that reflects the terms we’ve already hammered out.