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WGA Unimpressed By CBS Package

The Writers Guild of America East says it is "incredibly disappointed" with CBS' latest offer in ongoing contract negotiations, which ended Aug. 26 with no resolution in sight.

The company's contract with news writers, and promo writers, editors, graphic artists, desk assistants, and researchers, including for CBS Evening News, in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and Chicago, expired April 1.

Talks began March 15 over issues including pensions, health insurance, pay and, more broadly jurisdiction.

WGA negotiator Ann Toback said the union was concerned that CBS would not assure the guild that if CBS changed from broadcasting to some other delivery mechanism for its programming--say broadband or cable--its union contracts would still apply. They said that if they stop transmitting broadcasts over the air, we lose our contract," Toback told B&C.

CBS didn't suggest such plans were in the works, but Toback said the guild needs to look ahead given the constant changes in technology.

It was the first package offer CBS has made, and WGA's negotiating committee is still looking at it. It did include 2.5% wage increases per year for network TV and radio personnel for the three years of the proposed contract, according to the guild. Other elements included removing producers from the union; allowing managers to do guild work; terminating the contract in the event of the merging of any union shop, a nine-hour work day and numerous other elements.

"In presenting its package, the Company characterized itself at the table as eager to bargain and generous in its willingness to withdraw and modify its own proposals. CBS mis-characterized its position...." said the Guild in a statement. "The Company's proposals continue to demand substantial incursions into the Guild's jurisdiction and pay"

“Every organization that deals with the WGA East is familiar with their tactics," said a CBS spokesman. "Despite these distractions, we continue to negotiate in good faith and are hopeful we can come to an agreement that serves both parties.”

The two sides are working together to set up new talks, hopefully in the next few weeks, said Toback.