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WGA Says ABC Makes "Final" Offer

According to a representative of the Writers Guild of America East, ABC has submitted what it has called its "final offer" in the almost-two-year-old negotiations over new contracts for newswriters, editors, graphic artists, researchers and desk/production assistants.

That ABC proposal would remove newswriter/producers from the union (newswriters who have gained some management functions) and lead to possible layoffs of newswriters, the guild said.

Removing newswriters/producers is a key issue with the guild, which has complained, including in an FCC media-ownership hearing in L.A. last week, that removing them from the union would have an adverse impact on news quality.

The proposal on a new, five-year contract does include a pay increase that would represent a 9.5% boost by the end of five years. But the guild says that since it is not retroactive, it is actually over seven years and would not match a cost-of-living increase over that period.

The guild says ABC's latest proposal would also result in some temps losing health care, and in a reduction of pay for nighttime work.

The contract, which expired Jan. 31, 2005, covers about 250 staffers in New York (including WABC TV) and Washington.

The ABC offer was made in an Oct. 4 meeting, the first talks since June 29.

WGA East is also in protracted contract negotiations with CBS over similar news staffers, though WGA says there was been progress in its latest talks Sept. 29-30, with more meetings scheduled for the end of this month.

CBS also proposed removing writer/producers from the union, but has revised that proposal, says WGA. CBS' last pay-increase proposal was also not retroactive to April 2, 2005, when that contract expired.

A federal mediator has been present at each of the most recent negotiations with ABC and CBS, at the request of the guild.