Union to Dow Jones biz journalists: Deal falls short of what we wanted
Here is the note that the union representing business journalists at The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and MarketWatch.com sent to its members about the Dow Jones contract:
IAPE members — following up on this morning’s joint announcement of a tentative contract agreement between IAPE and Dow Jones & Company, we, the members of the Union negotiating committee, want to take just a few minutes of your time to explain what this deal means and what happens next.
- Three-year contract with early opt-out clause
- 2% compensatory raises; all scales increased by 1%
- 2017 healthcare costs frozen
- Ratification voting begins Friday
The bottom line: we now have a tentative agreement, and you will be asked to vote beginning this Friday on whether to ratify a contract. This won’t be a straw poll; it’ll be a binding vote. Consider it a referendum.
Ideally, Dow Jones would be offering terms that we liked enough to comfortably endorse an agreement to you. That hasn’t happened. Instead, what we have for you is the best offer Dow Jones is willing to make at this point in time.
The IAPE Board of Directors reviewed this package during its meeting on Saturday and decided to take a neutral position on the agreement. With input from the bargaining committee, the IAPE Board wants you to decide whether to accept or reject it. There are legitimate arguments on both sides.
This tentative agreement falls short of what we wanted when this process started. But the company’s perplexingly sudden financial difficulties (after all those sunny public statements) and the current downsizing have changed the landscape. We have reached the limits of what Dow Jones will offer, absent a very consequential protest like a mass walk out.
There are some notable negatives to this coming agreement, but there are also some positives so we’ll start with those. Raises — whether you qualify for the compensatory increase, a scale increase or a minimum-dollar raise — will be retroactive to July. Non-regular part-time employees qualify for contract raises for the first time. We’ve gotten the company to agree to freeze health care costs for this upcoming year, which will benefit some members whose plans were set to see significant increases in 2017. (Other plans already saw increases last year and we can’t claw those back.) Seniority and severance protections won’t be undermined. DJ intends to create a new company-wide incentive program that will reward employees when the company is doing well. The physical fitness reimbursement will increase immediately. There will be an improved premium pay system that should make it easier for employees to cash in on comp days they’re unable to take. Introductory pay scales will increase by 1% in each year of the contract. A slightly larger pool of people at the lower-end of the wage scale would be able to sell back a week of vacation if they wish.
Now for the significant negatives. Compensatory increases will be flat at a disappointing 2%. The company has rejected our every attempt to secure you a one-time signing bonus, no matter how small. There’s also a big red flag: DJ has insisted on having a clause that would allow either party to opt out of the deal after the first year. That means less certainty for all of us. DJ says it aspires to stay committed to the three year deal if its finances allow it, but right now we believe there’s a decent chance the company wants an early termination. If that happens, it logically follows that DJ will be looking for even smaller wage increases in the future. And we would need a big-time fight from all of you to try to prevent that.
We’ve heard from members with a range of views. Some could really use a raise without more delay, even if it’s a small one. And some want the contract standoff to be over for now and just live to fight another day. Others really want to keep fighting the company now, especially because DJ and News Corp seem to find money for other of their priorities. Everyone is disappointed (if not angry) at how DJ has handled the whole process.
If you hate this deal, vote against it. There’s precedent for IAPE members rejecting a proposed agreement, which could lead to better terms, or to a prolonged standoff. Either way, a significant increase in membership activity will be necessary. If you think the benefits of the agreement outweigh the negatives, vote for it. And if you have questions, fire away. Above all, we want you to make an informed decision when you are asked to vote on this contract, beginning Friday.
The IAPE Bargaining Committee