CBS contract goes up for WGA vote

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Less than a week after characterizing the latest CBS contract offer to WGA newswriters as disappointing, the guild has sent the proposal to membership for review and vote.

The Hollywood Reporter obtained a copy of an internal CBS memo that discloses a Nov. 30 deadline on the offer. A statement by the WGA East circulated Tuesday said a guild negotiating committee has found the CBS offer to be "unacceptable" but then voted unanimously to send the proposal for a membership vote "in response to CBS' repeated assertion that the WGA-CBS membership would accept any offer presented."

On Nov. 2, the WGA labeled as "very disappointing" a Nov. 1 offer featuring nonretroactive pay increases totaling 12% over the next 45 months for TV and network-radio newswriters and 8% for local radio employees (HR 11/3). The CBS memo refers to those terms as "generous" and discusses the matter of retroactivity.

"You may hear from employees that we are not providing retroactivity to April 1, 2005, the date the last agreement expired," the memo states. "This is true, (but) we made an offer this past June that would have provided for retroactivity to April 1 of this year if accepted. … The Guild-represented employees now have the opportunity to obtain a limited amount of retroactivity but only if they accept our latest offer by Nov. 30."

If the deadline is met, terms will be retroactive to Sept. 1, according to the memo.

The management memo also details a demand for more flexibility in the staffing of news operations at two news-radio stations in Los Angeles, KNX-AM and KFWB-AM. The matter involves a management demand that AFTRA-represented newswriters at KFWB be allowed to work on copy for KNX, where newswriters are repped by the WGA.

"We already have the ability to assign WGA-covered KNX employees to write for KFWB, and we simply want to have the right to have assignments go the other way as well," the memo states. "We have given the KNX Guild employees protections against being laid off due to the use of this proposal, and we think the proposal is fair."

Those continuing to work under terms of the expired WGA-CBS contract include about 500 newswriters, editors, desk and production assistants, graphic artists, promotion writers and researchers in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

WGAE spokeswoman Sherry Goldman said she expected results of the membership vote by Nov. 29. Asked if the WGAE council or WGA West board was making a recommendation on how members should vote, Goldman said, "The negotiating committee doesn't do anything unilaterally without getting the approval of the council and the board."

She also released a statement from WGAE executive director Mona Mangan.

"Although we've been negotiating in good faith for more than 20 months to get a fair contract for our members, the CBS labor relations department does not seem to understand that the negotiating committee's insistence to keep bargaining for a better contract represents the exact views and directives of our members, who are unhappy and outraged by the latest contract offer," Mangan said. "Now the members will be able to speak for themselves and tell CBS what we've been telling them for the past 20 months — that this offer is unacceptable."

"Our members do not want wage increases far below the cost of living and industry standard, a two-tier work force that is particularly punitive to local radio employees and reduced job security, all of which are offered in this insulting proposal," she said. "We know our members will reject this offer and demand CBS to return to the bargaining table."
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