After One Step Forward . . .
Three Steps Back
If Tuesday's bargaining session represented a step forward, on Thursday we took three backward.
IAPE and Dow Jones representatives met all day Thursday in South Brunswick, and the Union opened with a comprehensive proposal document. Many of our positions are unchanged, and on some we offered agreement with the Company. But the most important part of our presentation yesterday was — as we pledged on Tuesday — a plan to link wages with healthcare.
We proposed a turnaround from the current system in place for U.S. employees. Where healthcare premiums are currently calculated based on a percentage of salary, we proposed annual net percentage salary increases in July based on individual premium dollar increases the previous January. With this, we told them, the Union can accept the Company's proposal for U.S. healthcare in 2017.
(An aside to members in Canada — our position, and opposition to the Company's plan to impose premiums on your healthcare plan — has not changed.)
The Company's immediate response was to tell us they have not made a healthcare proposal for 2017. They have provided the Union with "information" on the benefits package they intend to implement next year. Their proposal is to remove references to healthcare and benefits from the IAPE contract.
You know, flexibility.
But still, the Company has agreed to negotiate over wages. Eventually.
So when the discussion turned to our proposal to calculate individual salary increases based on premium increases from the previous January, management said they "couldn't even fathom how that would be workable."
Yes, it's pretty hard to imagine taking each Dow Jones employee and applying a percentage increase to each individual based on their own salary. Unless you're calculating healthcare premiums.
"You expect employees to be held harmless" from premium increases, they said.
Yes. Yes we do.
Now they really understand our position. And they "have a significant issue" with it.
They told us they believe Dow Jones has competitive, affordable benefits. They don't believe healthcare is a significant bar to recruiting new employees, and they don't believe their cost hikes and plan design changes have a significant impact when employees choose to leave Dow Jones.
"We don't expect it to be a driving issue," they said.
We suspect many IAPE members have a different opinion (and with that in mind, please feel free to express your opinion via our Feedback Page).
There was little else to discuss Thursday. Dow Jones told us they were working on more healthcare information — a rough look into the future of plans for 2018 and beyond — but that their benefits consultant was still working on their request. And they came back to us with another "selected issues" proposal document, again knocking off other issues not directly related to wages and benefits, and with counter proposals to other items still on the table.
With vacation time affecting availability, we aren't scheduled to return to the contract table until July 28th.
This is where we turn to you, IAPE members. Take some time to go through our proposals, and those from the Company. Weigh in with your own comments. And starting next week, we'll ramp up our displays of IAPE support in all our locations.
For those who missed our social media updates yesterday, South Brunswick members looked great in their WSJ UNION MADE" t-shirts. Next Thursday — the next Dow Jones pay day — we're calling on all IAPE members to don their IAPE garb, or wear some form of black or red in support of the bargaining committee. And we'd love to see your own pics — tweet or post using the Hashtag #WSJunionmade, or send them to us and we'll add them to the IAPE website.
If simple displays of unity aren't sufficient to move the Company off their positions, we'll take things to the next level.
We're flexible that way.