GateHouse reaches new low, proposes “catch up” premium increases

Nov 17, 2016 by

Just when you think you’ve seen everything in contract negotiations, GateHouse Media surprises you with something even more draconian.

This week GateHouse offered its most onerous proposal to date at the Rockford Register Star: Retroactive medical and dental insurance premium increases or, if the employee chooses, a corresponding salary reduction instead.

Medical and dental insurance premiums for United Media Guild members at the Register Star have been frozen since the union was voted in, due to “status quo” labor law protections that remain in place during negotiations.

Since GateHouse steadfastly refuses to offer raises — even though some employees have endured an eight-year wage freeze — we’re still at the bargaining table.

According to company calculations, a UMG member with the Basic PPO-Family has been spared more than $5,000 in medical premiums from 2014 through 2016. An employee with family dental coverage has saved about $1,500.

(Most UMG members insured through the Register Star are on either the single or the employee-spouse plan.)

With a straight face, company negotiator Ali Zoibi said GateHouse wants that money back with “catch-up” increases. Moving forward, GateHouse also wants increases for 2017, up to nearly $2,000 for family medical and nearly $500 for family dental.

And, of course, GateHouse is offering no raises to offset any of his. As a result, several UMG members would lose between $4,000 and $9,000 in take-home pay in 2017.

Mind you, this is the same company that has slashed the newsroom operation to a fraction of its former size, making surviving journalists shoulder a much more challenging workload.

Destroying employee morale makes it easier to cut labor costs, so GateHouse works extra hard at being a terrible employer. Why else would it propose a $9,000 pay cut for veteran journalist trying to support a family?

By running off veteran journalists, it can hire younger employees at much lower pay scales. So what if the newspaper product suffered? Vulture capitalists own GateHouse Media and they are playing the asset-stripping game.

The whole point is to vacuum as much money out of each operation as possible to fund stock dividends, bankroll more newspaper purchases and keep the game going.

But GateHouse really outdid itself with this proposal.

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