Reuters and AP reach deal with unions in the U.S.

Unions representing U.S. employees at two major news agencies, Reuters Group PLC and The Associated Press, have reached tentative deals with the companies on Dec. 22, 2005.
The agreement at Reuters came two months after members of the Newspaper Guild of New York overwhelmingly rejected a proposed contract.
Barry Lipton, president of the union, called the talks with the Reuters ``the most difficult I've been involved in in many, many years.''
The workforces at AP and Reuters are covered by different unions and the talks were not linked.
The Newspaper Guild of New York represents almost 450 print and TV journalists, photographers, technicians and other employees at Reuters, while the News Media Guild is the bargaining agent for about 1,600 U.S. editorial and technology workers at AP.
Lipton said the tentative deal with Reuters became possible after the two sides resolved their differences over two key sticking points: health care benefits for retirees and job security provisions for technicians.
Lipton declined to discuss the details of those agreements, as did Reuters spokeswoman Samantha Topping.
The most recent contract between Reuters and its union expired in February 2003, but its provisions remained in effect while the negotiations continued. The proposed new agreement goes through February 2009 and includes annual wage increases of three per cent for 2005 through 2008, as well as retroactive increases prior to 2005.
The separate agreement between the News Media Guild and AP calls for annual base wage increases of 2.8 per cent in the first year, 3.18 per cent in the second and 3.08 per cent in the final year of the three-year contract.
Jessica Bruce, the AP's vice president of human resources, called the talks ``long'' and ``difficult,'' noting that the agreement came after a 22-hour bargaining session that ended early Wednesday. She said that in the end, ``I'm confident that we've done the right thing for our employees.''
New employees hired after Jan. 1 will no longer be eligible for AP's defined-benefit pension plan. Instead, the contract calls for them to participate in a defined-contribution retirement plan similar to what newly hired AP managers get, said Tony Winton, president of the guild. AP said it will make a yearly payment equal to three per cent of workers' salary to the new plan.
The two sides agreed to a buyout program that will eliminate 100 technicians' jobs, but the union will also begin representing some workers in AP's broadcast and other departments who had not previously been covered by the contract.
The guild accepted the AP's proposal to create a Senior Journalist classification for at least 20 employees that would provide a salary of at least at least $114,000 per year _ twice the top base newsroom scale of $57,200 _ but also exempt those reporters from most overtime pay provisions.
By comparison, top scale for Reuters newsroom employees will rise to about $90,500 under the new contract, Lipton said. Including economic differentials that cover most AP newsroom employees, top scale at AP comes to $63,700, according to Winton.
The talks between the News Media Guild and AP managers began Oct. 20, and the last contract expired Nov. 30. The agreements at both AP and Reuters still must be put to a vote of members of their respective unions.
Earlier this week, employees at The Canadian Press and Broadcast News, Canada's national news agency and its broadcast unit, voted to accept a new one-year deal. The contract provides a two per cent raise Dec. 31 as well as on Dec. 31, 2006, along with two extra floating holidays.
During 2005, the Canadian Media Guild members at the company gave back nearly two per cent of their pay in equal instalments to help CP-BN cope with a pending funding problem. That employee contribution expires at the end of this month.


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