THE PARENT COMPANY of the Boston Globe sent out an email Friday to union members claiming the two sides have reached tentative agreement on a number of issues, but the union downplayed the progress and said key financial areas of the contract remain unresolved.
The employees, including reporters, copy editors, and marketing, publishing, and business workers represented by the Boston Newspaper Guild, have been working without a new contract since December 31, 2018.
“We made progress on several proposals,” said an email entitled “Guild Bargaining Update” sent out to staff members by Boston Globe Media Partners on Friday afternoon.
Management claimed to have reached tentative agreements on career development and training, along with job safety and working conditions at a September 17 meeting.
“We reached a tentative agreement on language that allows for employees or the Guild to file a grievance over uncorrected safety conditions,” the email said, mentioning there was an additional agreement about workplace accidents.
Management also claimed that they had a tentative agreement on guidance and procedures for employees who seek to engage in “outside activities that post conflicts of interest.”
For union officials, those issues were small potatoes. “Yes, we have been able to come to an agreement on many small items in the contract. However, there are enormous issues that remain unresolved,” said Maria Cramer, a legal affairs reporter who also serves as vice president of the Guild. “Those issues continue to be the company‘s demand that the Guild give up its overtime, the Guild give up seniority, and members give up the ability to defend themselves when they feel they’ve been wronged or even harassed by management.”
Some of the biggest sticking points between the two sides revolve around employee retirement plans and wages. Management proposals offering a 2 percent, across-the-board wage increase or a 5 percent compensation increase split between wage hikes and 401K matches were both rejected by the union. The company is now proposing a “single wage minimum” for new and existing employees, set at the top of the current scale, along elimination of step increases based on seniority.
Cramer said the new proposal would only benefit a small number of current Guild members who are not already at the top of the wage scale. “Many of our members have told us they are now making less than they did in 2009 and this proposal would not make them whole,” she said. That year the paper imposed wage cuts of almost 6 percent on most employees.
On 401Ks, management wants the current 2 percent match to remain, while the Guild is seeking 5 percent.
Guild negotiators and management will be back at the bargaining table on September 25.
One thing the union and management agree on is diversity.
“I’m pleased management has agreed with us that diversity is important in the newsroom,” said Cramer.
Management said it is updating antiquated contract language on diversity and creating avenues for minority and LGBTQ employees who feel they have been discriminated against to pursue grievances.
At a lunchtime walkout in August, employees said the Globe was also proposing elimination severance payments, and won’t budge on its unused vacation day policy.
Efforts to reach officials and attorneys at the Globe on the state of contract negotiation were unsuccessful.