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No pay cuts in East Bay contract

The 44-page proposed contract between the Guild and EB-BANG has been posted online by the union. It says (on page 22) that the company can’t cut wages until October at the earliest, providing some measure of security for the 180 employees covered under the contract.

Union members at the Mercury News, which like EB-BANG is a MediaNews operation, are voting Monday on a proposed contract that will reduce wages by 9 percent over the next seven months. The Merc’s pay scale is higher than that of EB-BANG’s however.

“Our tentative contract does not specify a pay cut of any specific amount,” Guild bargaining unit chair Sara Steffens told the Press Club in an e-mail. “Instead it allows for a wage reopener — the opportunity for management to bargain for reduced wages — in the event of company-wide paycuts. No cut could go into effect before October, and it could not be any larger than that imposed on non-union employees.”

The East Bay contract is the first for that union, which was formed a year ago by a 104-92 vote of the employees. The union is composed of Contra Costa Times employees, who were not represented by a union, and Alameda Newspaper Group workers, whose Guild local battled for 12 years before obtaining a contract in 1998 that called for a starting reporter at ANG’s Oakland Tribune to make $26,000 a year (See June 4, 2006 Press Club posting).

The new East Bay contract sets a minimum of $18.75/hour ($39,000/year for full-timers) for reporters, copy editors and others identified as journalists.

“In a time of terrible turmoil, when most every newsroom is enduring layoffs, paycuts and benefit losses, this contract proposal offers basic job protections and guaranteed severance, while allowing flexibility for managers and acknowledging the financial crisis in our industry,” Steffens said. “We see it as a foundation to build from in the future.”

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