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The latest from your bargaining committee

There has been modest progress on a few issues on our three days of face-to-face talks with Reuters:

? Sick leave and how it is administered
? Family & emergency leave provisions
? Flexible work arrangements
? Improvements in the terms and conditions for part-time and temporary employees
? We agreed on reclassification of one position to a higher pay scale.

We are also discussing the many changes in Editorial that will result in the expanded Online and Front Page services running around the clock. One piece of good news: five new reporter positions ? in addition to the six created for the Online pilot project ? will be advertised and filled by the end of March.

Clearly the company wants an agreement within a reasonable time period. However, they say they are “looking to demonstrate progress on benefit flexibility.” Translation: they want to save costs in the area of health benefits or at least show Reuters they are moving in that direction.

They have identified two areas they think are the least objectionable ? the first is an increase in the fee you pay for each prescription from $2 to $5.

The second concerns Long Term Disability benefits. They are proposing that employees begin paying LTD premiums, which are currently paid 100 % by the employer. Under the current system, if an employee goes on LTD, those benefits are taxable. Given that the benefits are already only 66% of regular salary, take-home pay is significantly reduced if tax is also deducted. The advantage of their proposal is that the benefits are not taxable if the employee pays the premium, and the net payment is almost equal to regular take-home pay.

We are not opposed to such a change as long as the cost is not simply transferred to Guild employees. We have proposed that the LTD premium be offset by a one-time corresponding increase in pay scales.

We have not yet talked about money or the length of the contract. Management has referred several times to our salaries and benefits as being rich and “out of the market.” Comparisons have also been made to the last three years in which Guild employees enjoyed increases of 2.5% each year while management received 1.6%, 1.8% and 2.2% respectively. We don’t believe that past agreements, achieved quite amicably, should be held against Guild employees.

Due to various scheduling conflicts, we expect the next round of talks will take place in April. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact any of us.

Rick Franolla
Victoria Hantziantoniou
Jeff Jones
Kathy Viner, CMG Staff Rep

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