ABC, NABET speak well of talks

Both sides say progress made on new labor contract

ABC and NABET-CWA appear back on track in contract negotiations for more than 2,500 newswriters and others in five markets.

The parties held sessions this week and last in Chicago, the first talks since about 150 members of NABET and WGA East staged an Aug. 16 rally in New York to protest impasses in the unions' respective negotiations with ABC.

"There was some progress made in certain areas, but there's a long way to go in certain other areas," a union source said.

A management insider agreed that the half-dozen sessions in the latest round of talks, which began Aug. 20 and ran through Tuesday, were "productive."

NABET's last four-year contract with ABC — covering TV and radio newswriters, technicians and others in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco — expired March 31.

The WGAE's alphabet contract expired more than two years ago, leaving 250 members in New York and Washington to work under terms of the old pact. No new talks are scheduled between the guild and ABC.

In the NABET talks, remaining sticky issues include proposals affecting seniority rights related to any future layoffs.

Union negotiators also have been objecting to a company proposal to stop adding participants to the NABET pension plan and instead giving new hires 401(k) benefits. But a well-placed source said that management agreed conditionally to take that proposal off the table provided certain portions of the seniority proposals were accepted.

A labor response to that compromise is expected when the parties meet again. No date has been set for the next negotiating session, but sources said negotiations could resume by late September or early October.

Salary proposals have not been addressed in detail. But sources suggested that progress was made in the area of work rules and some jurisdictional issues.