Newswriters trade retro for jurisdiction in CBS contract


More than 21/2 years after its last contract expired, the WGA on Wednesday announced a new tentative deal covering 500 CBS newswriters and others in four major markets.

The guild secured the agreement — which still must be ratified by membership — by conceding a bit on the issue of retroactive pay in exchange for CBS' withdrawing certain proposals. The new pact provides a 3.5% raise upon ratification and another in 2009, and it provides for an lump-sum payment of $3,700 in lieu of retroactive raises dating to the April 1, 2005, expiration of the past pact.

Management proposals removed from the table to make way for the deal include a bid to shift some current WGA-supervised work at Los Angeles' KNX-AM to non-WGA staffers. Also, terms of the tentative agreement provide for a 90-day "notification and bargaining period" should CBS decide to consolidate KNX operations with those of another eye-owned Los Angles news-radio station, KFWB-AM, officials said.

A management proposal to create a two-tiered pay scale offering radio writers lesser compensation than TV writers also was nixed, along with a management proposal to remove certain news producers from WGA jurisdiction.

WGA newswriters have been working under terms of the expired contract, and guild officials acknowledged that retroactive pay raises would have averaged much higher than $3,700.

"There is no question that the WGA put its money where its mouth was," WGA East executive director Mona Mangan said. "But we had to spend a lot of time in the foxholes to get it."

The WGAE's campaign to enlist support from congressmen and other pols also helped, Mangan said. "And it's a presidential campaign year, and (CBS) needs to cover the news and needs people in a better frame of mind than our members were," she added.

The proposed pact would take effect immediately upon ratification and run through April 1, 2010. It would cover WGA newswriters, editors, desk and production assistants, graphic artists and researchers and CBS' TV and radio operations in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Washington.

Members will vote Jan. 23-24 on the tentative agreement, which also must be approved by the WGAE Council and the WGA West board.

"We are gratified that a tentative agreement has been reached so that CBS and its valued WGA news employees can put this chapter behind us," CBS said. "Our focus throughout the process has been on reaching a fair agreement, and we think this contract is good for both sides."

The tentative agreement with CBS follows last month's WGA ratification of a new contract with ABC covering 250 newswriters and others in New York and Washington. The ABC newswriters, who also had worked more than two years under an expired contract, also won 3.5% raises and a $3,700 bonus.