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WGA/CBS Contract Impasse Continues

The Writers Guild of America negotiating committee says it unanimously rejected a proposal, made in a sidebar discussion with CBS in its protracted contract talks, that would have left producers in the union, for now.

According to an advisory sent to members, CBS said it would no longer ask that producers be taken out of the union, but said that if the union ever agreed to take producers out in a contract with another employer, CBS would get to do the same.

Removing producers from the union is considered a nonnegotiable, non-starter by WGA.

Although the provision would be similar to "most favored nation" clauses, which essentially insure nobody gets a better deal somewhere else, Ann Toback, one of the principal negotiators for WGA East, said that such clauses usually deal with pay scales and benefits, but that under this proposal, "CBS producers could lose their union protection mid-contract, agreeing to and ratifying a contract that would not protect them."

She said that CBS also would not agree to retroactive pay increases back to the April 2, 2005 termination of the previous contract. That is also another key issue with WGA.

The two sides aren't scheduled to return to the bargaining table until Aug. 17. Already, it is the longest WGA members have had to negotiate past the end of a contract in the 50-plus years of the WGA/CBS relationship, says Toback.

"Our recent bargaining session was an off-the-record sidebar conversation that we prefer to keep confidential," said CBS in a statement, "therefore we're not going to comment."

The contract covers news producers, writers, and editors; promo writers, graphics people and desk assistants, network TV and radio, as well as at CBS stations in New York, Chicago, and L.A.