Union: Three Sticking Points in Inquirer/Newspaper Guild Negotiations

And now the company is asking for a mediator.



The company that owns Philly’s biggest daily newspapers is seeking a mediator to help resolve contract negotiations with the union that represents most of its journalists.

Howard Gensler and Bill Ross, president and executive director of the Newspaper Guild, said in a Tuesday memorandum to their constituents that negotiations with Interstate General Media — the company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — were foundering over several issues:

• An attempt (at least as characterized by the union) to weaken “last hired, first fired” seniority rules that preserve the jobs of older, longer-tenured employees when the company deems layoffs necessary. Guild leaders have said they will not budge on that issue. 

• Health insurance costs. “The company not only hasn’t increased its health-care contribution in this century, it actually decreased it in 2013 by more than $1.5 million per year. With its present $500,000 offer, the average cost  could skyrocket $2,500 to $5,500 per member per year, depending on coverage,” Gensler and Ross wrote.

• Separate contracts for print and digital. Currently, journalists at the Inquirer and Daily News work under a contract separate from the one that governs Philly.com employees. “One contract would significantly improve the working conditions and pay for members at Philly.com,” Gensler and Ross write.

The two sides have agreed to a 60-day extension of the old contract, during which sessions with a mediator will be scheduled. (The contract was originally scheduled to expire Feb. 8.) The mediator’s suggestions are not binding, guild leaders said.