ABC, NABET Reach Tentative Accord

ABC and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians sector of the Communications Workers of America struck a deal on a new, four-year contract.

The contract expired March 31, although the sometimes-contentious talks had begun a month earlier.

The contract covers engineers, news writers, publicists, desk assistants, plant-maintenance workers and traffic coordinators at the four ABC-owned TV stations (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco) and network employees in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. A total of about 1,100 employees are covered under the contract.

The heads of NABET and CWA and the full bargaining committee agreed to recommend that the rank and file accept the deal. Ballots will be mailed Dec. 17 and the results will be announced Jan. 11.

One of the key issues was ABC's ability to change the seniority system to reflect changing technology. The union said the deal came after ABC made several significant modifications to what it had billed as its last, best offer. The union said it was the best deal it was going to get "at this time."

Although the network was issuing no details, a source said some change to the seniority system, although a compromise from the network's previous stand, is part of the new deal.

Talks resumed Nov. 28, then appeared to have gotten off track only two days later, when the union said ABC misrepresentations had wiped out progress made in the first two days of talks, while ABC countered that a deal was in sight but disappeared due to the union's unwillingness to recommend it to the rank and file. But off-the-record talks continued and eventually bore fruit, apparently with some give on both sides.

After sometimes-heated table talk during the on-again, off again negotiations, the rhetoric Friday was of the cooler, olive-branch variety. “We are very pleased that we were able finally to reach agreement with NABET after our months at the bargaining table," said Jeffrey Ruthizer, senior vice president of labor relations for ABC and the network's chief negotiator. "We value our relationship with NABET, as well as the many contributions of our NABET-represented employees, and we look forward to their ratification of this proposed contract”

This was the second contract stalemate to get resolved between ABC and a union in the past 10 days. On Nov. 29, news writers and ABC reached a tentative agreement on a new contract after almost three years without one.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.