Union upset at ‘unilateral’ proposal by Gannett
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Gannett Co. Inc. has threatened to unilaterally implement a labor proposal at the Honolulu Advertiser that would increase medical premiums and freeze wages for a year, according to one of six unions jointly negotiating with Gannett.
Gannett presented a "final offer" to the union on Friday for a two-year contract that it would implement entirely or in part if a contract wasn't ratified within 30 days, according to Wayne Cahill, administrative officer for the Hawaii Newspaper Guild.
Gannett officials didn't return calls for comment before press deadline yesterday.
Workers' contracts were scheduled to expire last June, but were extended during negotiations, which started last May.
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The owner of the Honolulu Advertiser has threatened to unilaterally implement a proposal that would increase workers' medical premiums and freeze wages for a year, according to the union representing the company's more than 600 workers.
Gannett Co. Inc., presented a "final offer" to the Hawaii Newspaper and Printing Trades Council on Friday for a two-year contract that it would implement entirely or in part if the union didn't ratify a contract within 30 days, according to Wayne Cahill, administrative officer for the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, one of six unions jointly negotiating with Gannett under the Hawaii Newspaper and Printing Trades Council.
Gannett officials at the Advertiser didn't return calls for comment before press deadline yesterday.
Cahill said the move "brought things to a crisis," and warned that a strike is possible if an alternative agreement isn't reached.
"It depends how serious they are in having a final offer," he said. "Our focus is on getting a settlement, but if the company forces us with this kind of a proposal that could happen. We think it's a slap in the face to the employees."
The last strike at the Advertiser - which at the time had a joint operating agreement with the Star-Bulletin - was in 1963. That strike lasted for about two months.
Workers' contracts were scheduled to expire last June, but were extended during negotiations, which started last May. Cahill said the union has met with Gannett officials four or five times to exchange proposals and counterproposals, but has not had substantive discussions to date.
Gannett's latest offer includes changes to medical plans that would result in workers paying more in premiums and more than double the co-pay for prescription drugs, according to Cahill. Workers now pay 10 percent of the health-care premium, but would be required to pay 15 percent, he said.
Another part of the proposal freezes wages from June 2007 to June 2008 and implements a 1 percent wage increase between June 2008 to June 2009, with a bonus upon ratification equal to 1.5 percent of annual pay, Cahill said.
"With inflation, it is a pay-cut proposal, because inflation is going to be nearly 6 percent in Honolulu this year," he said. "The pay increases they're proposing would not cover the increased cost in the medical premiums people would have to pay."
Further troubling the union is that there's no indication the Advertiser is having any financial difficulties, the union said.
Over the past few years, Cahill said: "Gannett management was making a great point to let everybody know about how this (newspaper) was doing better than any other (newspaper)."
The Hawaii Newspaper and Printing Trades Council is comprised of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, Honolulu Typographical Union, International Longshore & Warehouse Union, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Hawaii Printing & Graphic Communications Union and the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.