The first round of talks between the Canadian Media Guild and Reuters management took place January 18-19. The two days were spent talking about what we want to accomplish during this round of bargaining and setting out our objectives in some detail.
At the outset, Reuters management said it was their mandate and desire to reach an agreement locally, quickly and amicably, but suggested the recent byline strike by Canadian reporters wasn’t a productive start. The Guild bargaining team replied that the byline strike was a spontaneous and voluntary show of support for US colleagues, and was not related in any way to these talks.
With that aside we were able to get down to business. The Guild set out its objectives for this round of bargaining; these objectives reflect the responses we received to the bargaining survey conducted a few months ago. For the first time in several years, the top priority for members’ is job security, followed by money. Other issues include:
– improving the terms and conditions of employment for part-time and temporary employees
– scheduling and shift work, particularly in Editorial which is moving toward a 24/7 operation;
– flexible work arrangements such as reduced work weeks, job sharing or tele-work (work from home);
– establishing a Pension Committee to broaden the knowledge and understanding of the plan among the membership;
– reviewing health benefits;
– jobs classified as management which the Guild believes are only supervisory and should be included in the bargaining unit, some technical and EIC (Editor in Charge);
– administrative and housekeeping issues. While minor, these include such things as timely receipt of dues and notification of hiring, promotions, resignations etc.; a review of the groups in the salary scales to add/delete positions as required.
Since the transfer of payroll operations to St. Louis, information which should be sent to the Guild monthly or quarterly has fallen through the cracks.
In terms of salary increases, neither side set numbers down on the table, but both are aware of what’s happening generally in the workforce and where the Consumer Price Index sits.
For its part, management wishes to discuss its ability to manage the operation given the language in our agreement concerning layoffs, and some possible tinkering with our benefits plan. Reuters believes the plan is rich in comparison to counterparts in the industry; as everyone knows, this is a key issue in the US. The Guild is willing to look at the benefits plan with a view to finding areas where savings might be achieved, but not at the cost of reducing the benefits employees need and have enjoyed for many years.
All in all, it was a good first session and both the Company and Guild bargaining committees have some homework to do in preparation for the next round. We have set two sessions for the coming weeks: February 21-22 and February 28 ? March 1.
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