News Media Guild Approves AP Contract

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(AP) Members of the News Media Guild have overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract with The Associated Press that calls for wage increases and other benefits, including the addition of domestic partner coverage in the health insurance plan.

The agreement, covering nearly 1,700 newspeople and other office staff, will be effective through Nov. 30, 2005. It was ratified by a vote of 567 to 68, the Guild’s elections committee announced Friday.

The new contract calls for salary increases over three years boosting top scale by a total of $91.50 weekly from $978.50 to $1,070: $26.50 in the first year, $30 in the second year, and $35 in the final year. The second- and third-year increases are effective on Dec. 1 of this year and on Dec. 1, 2004.

The AP agreed to stabilize health care costs by guaranteeing a maximum increase of 10% in employee contributions in 2003 and 2004. In the third year, the AP will make contributions to the fund on behalf of employees with dependent coverage to subsidize part of any increase in rates. In exchange, the AP will increase the co-pay for doctor’s office visits from $15 to $20 and also increase the co-pay for prescription drugs.

Other changes include an increase in the AP’s contributions to the employee 401(k) plan starting next Jan. 1; an increase in night, overnight, and Sunday differentials; a doubling of the annual vision care benefit to $200; and a maximum reimbursement for orthodontic care of $1,000.

Wage increases and other benefits are effective retroactively to June 2, when the tentative agreement was reached.

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