UMG votes Tuesday on contract extension

United Media Guild members will meet to discuss the proposed contract extension at noon and 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18 in Rooms 206 at the Post-Dispatch building at 900 North Tucker Blvd. After the contract is explained and discussed, members will vote by secret ballot.

If approved, the extension will take effect Sept. 28, 2015 and run through Sept. 30, 2018.

If our members reject the extension, the UMG and Post-Dispatch will begin full-scale bargaining this fall. All the current contract provisions would be subject to negotiation and the process would likely extend into 2016, if not much, much longer.

Language in the current contract would remain in effect past the contract’s expiration date due to evergreen language in the collective bargaining agreement.

We are still in the process of finalizing the new language in this proposal. We hope to distribute flyers with those details in the workplace before the end of the week.

The contract would include increases to the pay scale by:

2 percent on Dec. 27, 2015.
2 percent on Dec. 26, 2016.
2 percent on Dec. 25, 2017.

On Dec. 27, 2015, “commission only” sales reps would become “base plus commission” and receive $625 per week in base pay.

On that date, “base plus commission” sales reps receiving $575 per week in base pay will get an increase to $625 per week.

On that date, “base plus commission” sales reps receiving $673 per week in base pay will get an increase to $721 per week.

Members will vote on whether to keep the current company 401K contribution of $75 per month or go with the plan for non-represented employees. That company plan currently matches 40 percent of the first 5 percent of the employee’s contribution.

But the company could modify or eliminate that 401K match during the course of the contract — and that would not be subject to negotiation with the UMG.

Severance pay for involuntary lay-offs will remain the same as in the current contract. That is a critical protection for our long-time members, especially those in areas already decimated by lay-offs.

Maximum severance for voluntary layoffs — those stepping up to save the jobs of others — will be capped at 39 weeks effective 9/28/2015. On 9/26.2016, the voluntary layoff pay will be capped at 26 weeks.

These changes reduces the incentive for long-time employees to step up and take lay-offs in place of shorter-term employees. But the group of employees eligible for up to 66 weeks of severance in the expiring contract has shrunk by one-third this summer.

Managers can exempt employees at the low end of our seniority list from lay-off. Effective 9/28/2015, the company can exempt from layoffs up to 20 employees in any department or classification regardless of seniority.

But that number can’t exceed 15 percent of the Guild membership as of Jan. 1 of the applicable calendar year. In any classification where an employee is exempted, employees in the top 25 percent in seniority in that classification (rounded up) shall by protected from layoff for the life of the exemption.

On Dec. 27, 2015, the employee share of medical premiums would increase from 25 to 30 percent. But the total medical premium will be frozen in 2016 and 2017.

The net result will be an increase in medical premiums through 2017 ranging from slightly more than $10 per pay period to slightly more than $40 per period depending on the medical plan.

Those increases could offset the raises in the first year of the contract for some members, depending on their plan. In the second year of the contract, premiums will remain the same so our members will realize the full impact of the raise.

In the third year of the contract, medical premiums could increase again.

Under the current contract, our members endured a 6 percent pay cut plus unpaid furloughs. In addition, our members lost ground to inflation and increased medical care costs, through premium increases and higher deductibles and co-pays.

This extension would restore the pay cuts. Inside salespersons gained base pay in this contract after working on a commission-only arrangement. All base-plus-commission salespersons will gain base pay increases, offering greater protection in down months when they make little or no commission.

Given the declining revenues in the industry overall and Lee Enterprises in particular, we aimed to extend this contract sooner or later.