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UPI Wants Sweeping Concessions from Guild

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

UPI Wants Sweeping Concessions from Guild

Article excerpt

UPI wants sweeping concessions from Guild

United Press International has asked the Wire Service Guild for sweeping wage and employee rights concessions, which it says are necessary for survival of the wire service.

Guild president Kevin Keane, however, said in a WSG bulletin that the proposal is "destructive" and "more likely to kill the company than its creditors."

In addition, the committee of unsecured creditors from UPI's 1985 bankruptcy is seeking to have legal proceedings moved from New York to Washington, D.C. Although UPI is headquartered in Washington, it filed for Chapter 11 in New York to combine portions of its action with the bankruptcy filing of parent company Infotechnology Inc.

Under the last agreement with the union, Unipressers' wages are set to return to 100% on Sept. 15. Staffers have been operating under wage reductions of as much as 35% since last November.

Now UPI is seeking not only a wage freeze, but also an entirely new pay structure that would mean no new cuts for current employees. Junior staffers would see their pay increased to a minimum $370, about 25% higher than wages under the current agreement.

Unipressers with five to eight years' experience, however, would see their pay increase schedule eliminated, with pay differentials based on responsibilities, ability and performance - all awarded at the discretion of management.

Other changes proposed by UPI included: elimination of restrictions on stringers working in bureaus; elimination of notice or severance to any staffer laid off; no more "bumping" of junior employees by senior staffers when a job is eliminated; employees could no longer decline a transfer to another UPI site or job posting; and elimination of provisions ensuring New York and Washington employees would receive new jobs if their bureaus were moved.

While the proposal affecting New York and Washington employees raised speculation UPI would be vacating one or both of those offices, spokesman Milt Capps said the wire service would keep a presence in each city, but would consider relocating its corporate offices to a less expensive region. UPI would prefer, he said, to remain in Washington.

UPI has told the Guild that it is losing approximately $485,000 per month, a loss that would increase should wages return to 100%. UPI management maintains that its proposals are necessary to help the company return to the break-even point.

UPI is proposing that the concessions continue through June 30, 1992, when its current contract with the WSG expires. If the two sides cannot agree, UPI can ask the bankruptcy judge to void or modify the current contract.

Other cost-cutting measures at UPI include cutbacks in telecommunications expenses, rents paid on excess space and other services, such as couriers and express mail delivery, explained spokesman Milt Capps.

The Guild and UPI representatives ended their meeting Sept. 3 in Philadelphia with a request from the union for additional financial disclosures from the company, including copies of all personal services contracts with officers and others, as well as an accounting of UPI's accumulated debt to parent company Infotechnology, reported to be around $25 million.

Another meeting was scheduled for Sept. …

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