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WGAE, ABC Impasse Remains

The Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) has filed against ABC with the National Labor Relations Board.

The guild has been in negotiations with ABC for 23 months over a new contract for about 250 newswriters, editors, graphic artists, researchers and desk/production assistants in New York (including WABC TV) and Washington.

The union says that ABC insistence that its most recent offer, which included removing newswriter/producers from the union, is its last one is unlawful conduct.

"These are old charges that were withdrawn and refiled," said an ABC spokeswoman. "we've already responded to the latest charges to the NLRB. They are without merit."

WGAE wants the NLRB to order ABC back to the bargaining table and rescind the term of removing the producers, as well as make the guild members "whole for any losses sustained from ABC’s unlawful conduct."

ABC does not talk about its contract negotiations, but B&C obtained a letter that went to guild members after ABC's "final" offer back in October in which it told the staffers it had agreed to a number of compromises while the guild had agreed to "zero."

ABC says that the union is defending "antiquated and non-competitive contract provisions" that deny the network the "operational efficiency" of its nonunion competition "like Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Bloomberg News and others."

ABC said it is also feeling the crunch from satellite radio and new network competition, arguing that it needs to lengthen work days and cut costs on the radio side given the "sudden emergence of Fox News Radio as the news supplier of many Clear Channel radio stations which have disaffiliated from ABC News Radio."

The guild Friday in its own letter to members said that ABC "has not changed their bargaining position in nearly two years and now insists that despite the Guild’s significant movement at the bargaining table, they will negotiate no more on their union busting demands."

The guild said that ABC could not declare impasse "on a proposal to take members out of the bargaining unit," saying that was a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

"In addition to slicing off parts of our union, the company still insists on a long list of proposals that reduce Guild wages, fees, job security and benefits," said the Guild. "The 'improvements' it cites in their letter to us are clearly positive, but they constitute a few positive drops in a  torrent of rollbacks."