Two unions at Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) agreed to a voluntary pay cut in light of the current economic climate.
“We’re all in this together,” said Butch Bowring of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) local.
Workers represented by NABET and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) at TPT received a pay increase of 3 percent in September 2008. Earlier this year, the unions were approached by management to renegotiate in the face of layoffs for both union and nonunion workers, according to Bowring.
Bowring said that the unions agreed to the pay cut in order to prevent layoffs, but only under the condition that if any union members were laid off, the wages would increase again by 3 percent. Bowring said that TPT also agreed that when the unions renegotiate their contracts in August of this year, the beginning bargaining point starts at the old base before the pay cut.
While more than a hundred non-union employees were more at risk of being laid off than the 50 members of both unions, the unions decided to stand in solidarity with non-union workers.
Bowring said that while management did first approach the unions with the pay cut proposal, it never said “if you don’t accept this we’ll lay people off.” Rather, Bowring said “We decided collectively as a group, the way the country is, the way the state is, the way our industry with our television broadcast station struggling, we had to make some kind of equal adjustments.”
The pay cut measure will save TPT $150,000, according to Bowring. He said that his hope is that the economy turns around. “If we get through this contract with all our bargaining unit still employed, health and welfare benefits where they are, if the status quo happens through the recession, what we did will be a success.”
Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.