By: Seth Sutel, AP Business Writer
(AP) Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal and other financial publications, has reached a tentative contract agreement with its largest union, ending months of contentious talks over health care costs and wage increases.
The deal, which the company announced Friday, covers the 1,600 members of the Independent Association of Publisher’s Employees through Jan. 31, 2007 and is retroactive to May 2003, when the last contract expired.
Since then, the company and union have been at loggerheads over several issues, including pay raises and a company proposal to have employees pay a portion of their health care costs. The union’s rank and file had rejected a previous contract agreement reached last fall.
The new tentative contract must still be approved by IAPE’s members, a process that could take several weeks since the votes must be tallied by mail, according to union president Virgil Hollender.
Hollender said the breakthrough in the talks came when a mediator, who had been brought in three weeks ago after the negotiations reached an impasse, presented a compromise proposal with concessions from both sides. “Both sides got some of what they wanted,” Hollender said.
In a note to employees, Dow Jones Chairman Peter Kann and Chief Operating Officer Richard Zannino said the new contract “represents a full and fair resolution of many difficult issues that we have been able to resolve in a manner that will enable us all to devote our full attention to our publications, products and customers.”
The tentative contract calls for a wage freeze for 2003, a wage increase of 2.5% retroactive to Feb. 1, 2004 and minimum increases of 3.25% on Feb. 1, 2005 and 3.5% the year after.
Union represented employees will also get a $1,000 lump-sum payment after the new agreement is ratified, and another payment of $750 this December and one of $250 next year. The agreement also calls for employees to pay part of their health care premiums, but coverage for spouses and children is increased under the new plan.
The talks had several tense moments in recent months, and the union undertook a number of job actions, including a two-day byline strike last month. Journal reporters also picketed in front of Dow Jones’ annual meeting in April and spoke out against management’s proposals there.
In addition to the Journal, Dow Jones also publishes Barron’s, Dow Jones Newswires and a number of stock market indicators, including the Dow Jones industrial average.