Bargaining Update 11.21.06
Let's Talk About Health Care Costs
We held our third bargaining session with company lawyers Tuesday November 21st, and got some surprising information in response to some questions we asked last week.
It turns out that, for all the company's talk about exploding healthcare costs, its costs aren't exploding at all.
In fact, they've been pretty much flat since 2002, when they got almost to $42 million. They rose to $43 million in 2003 and fell to $41 million in 2004. For last year, a company estimate puts them just below $43 million. The company doesn't have a 2006 estimate yet.
As a percentage of Dow Jones's growing revenues, healthcare costs actually have been falling— especially if you take inflation into account.
The company, of course, prefers to talk about the health costs per employee, rather than overall — but the number that affects their bottom line is the overall number, not the per-employee number. And even on a per-capita basis, health costs aren't spiraling. They rose 6.4% in 2005, according to a preliminary estimate, and 2.3% in 2004.
Bottom line: Spiraling health costs aren't a significant problem at Dow Jones, which makes you wonder why they want to quintuple health costs for us.
Did we say quintuple? Yes, that was another number they provided us. Average healthcare premiums for IAPE members are projected at just 5% of the company's healthcare costs in 2007 — not the 8% we had before. They propose to make us pay 20% in 2008, 23% in 2009 and 25% in 2010. They aren't talking about tripling our premiums — they are talking about quintupling them by 2010.
They also told us which news organizations they think of as our "peers" — the benchmarks on which they want to base our pay and benefits. These are the Associated Press, Gannett, McClatchy, the New York Times, Scripps, Tribune and the Washington Post.
With all due respect to these companies, we don't aspire to be like them. We certainly don't want to become another USA Today.
Back in August, WSJ publisher Gordon Crovitz pointed with pride to a Pew study showing that the Journal is the most trusted publication in the U.S.
"Indeed," said Gordon, "the Journal was the only major publication whose credibility rating rose since 2004, the time of the most recent Pew study." He added that "the Journal stands alone" in its absence of bias.
That's what we aspire to. We want to remain head and shoulders above the rest, not part of the crowd. To do that, we need quality pay and quality benefits. Quality people deserve a quality contract.
Bargaining Committee Chair
IAPE 1096 CWA