ABC News, WGAE forge a truce

Newly negotiated contract would run through 2010

ABC News employees will vote Dec. 13 on whether to ratify a tentative contract reached Thursday between the network and the WGA East.

The 250 ABC News writers, producers, editors, graphic artists and desk assistants covered under the contract in New York and Washington have been working without a contract since Jan. 31, 2005.

The new contract, expected to be ratified, would run through Feb. 1, 2010. It calls for a 3.5% annual raise effective immediately as well as a $3,700 bonus for each full-time employee (and prorated for others). The WGAE has agreed to drop a pending National Labor Relations Board complaint.

The deadlock was broken after ABC News dropped a key provision that involved moving a dozen or so union employees of the TV network and WABC-TV to management.

"Those were jobs that had been in the writers guild since the 1960s," WGAE executive director Mona Mangan said. "We said, 'No, you can't take people out of the bargaining unit.' "

The new contract also changes some of the workday rules for network radio employees as well as providing a lower differential for night-shift work and an increase in fees for assistants who serve as editors as part of their duties.

"We're pleased after three long years of negotiations to be able to make a deal," said Jeff Ruthizer, senior vp labor relations at ABC. "We value our WGA-represented employees, and we look forward to a positive ratification vote that will allow both sides to put this behind them."

The WGAE is considering whether to call a strike against CBS after working for more than two years without a contract for its writers, editors and desk assistants. The union voted two weeks ago to approve a strike, though one has not been called.

ABC on Wednesday resumed negotiations with another union, the NABET-CWA, for an expired contract covering technical employees and publicists.

Mangan said she hoped the ABC News agreement would encourage CBS News to come back to the bargaining table.