NPR Workers ‘Relieved’ After Three-Year Pact Signed

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By Jacquie Lee

National Public Radio and SAG-AFTRA—the union that represents NPR employees—signed a three-year contract July 31, NPR and the union announced in a joint statement. The announcement followed contentious negotiations and a threatened strike.

The contract bumps parental leave up to six weeks, improves telecommuting options, and ensures employees aren’t required to negotiate for their salaries, Becky Sullivan, an NPR producer, told Bloomberg BNA July 31. NPR management had sought to move away from a salary system in which pay was tied to job titles. Workers will get a cost-of-living raise each year on Jan. 1, she said.

The pact, which covers 435 employees, is effective immediately. It expires June 30, 2020.

“We have concerns about how eagerly Management wanted people to have to negotiate for their salaries (a system that research shows disadvantages women and people of color),” Sullivan said in an email. “We are relieved we were able to keep the company from lowering the minimum salaries to the dramatic two-tier-style levels they originally proposed.”

Benefits largely remain the same, said Sullivan, who was a member of the union’s bargaining team. NPR management attempted to strip temporary employees of health-care benefits, “but we successfully beat back those proposals,” she said.

About 25 percent of NPR workers are classified as temporary employees, Sullivan said. Removing their benefits would have been a huge blow because NPR employees often work as temps for a year or two before they’re hired for permanent positions, she said.

Union Members ‘Relieved’ but Not ‘Happy’

“Overall, I think the union members are relieved to have come to an agreement (and to have avoided a strike), but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone happy about the outcome,” Sullivan said.

The joint statement lauded the bargaining teams for working “tirelessly and constructively to find common ground.” NPR wouldn’t comment further on the pact.

Employees’ old contract expired June 30, but NPR and SAG-AFTRA bought themselves more time by extending it until July 14. The two parties worked toward an agreement with the help of a federal mediator. It’s the first time a mediator has been brought in for assistance in the union’s 40-year relationship with NPR, Sullivan told Bloomberg BNA July 13.

Workers ratified their last contract in July 2015. It covered 400 NPR on-air and off-air employees. The negotiations for that contract took only about a week before the sides came to an agreement and employees voted for ratification, Sullivan said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacquie Lee at jlee1@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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