WGA: CBS unresponsive in talks

Despite recent progress, news contracts still unsolved

The WGA's news contract talks with CBS have gone a bit manic, with the guild characterizing the latest session as "very disappointing" just weeks after signaling progress in talks following a period so difficult as to trigger job actions.

When parties in this 19-month dialogue last met, CBS agreed to withdraw certain demands, and the WGA signaled new flexibility on certain issues, WGA East spokeswoman Sherry Goldman said.

"There was a lot of movement on both sides last time," Goldman said Thursday. "This time, CBS came in, and they were not in a mood to negotiate."

The day before, in a daylong bargaining session in New York, CBS presented as a "final offer" a contract featuring nonretroactive pay increases totaling 12% over the next 45 months for TV and network radio newswriters and 8% for local radio employees.

Meanwhile, an issue involving Los Angeles' two news-radio stations continued to throw off heat as the eye "held to its demand for the right to assign nonguild (KFWB) employees to write and edit at KNX," Goldman said.

"At the conclusion of the 12-hour day, CBS in sidebar presented the guild with a final offer that was very disappointing, punitive to WGA-CBS employees and fell far below the guild negotiating committee's minimum requirements," the spokeswoman said.

In September, the network had agreed to drop a proposal to withdraw certain writer-producers from guild jurisdiction. That change and certain other modified positions had left the guild optimistic of more progress, Goldman said.

She added that the guild also "gave them lot more flexibility in terms of managing these people — which was a big give."

The Sept. 28-29 sessions stood in marked contrast to previous rounds of talks, which had become so acrimonious as to spark a walkout in Los Angeles and a protest rally in August in New York.

The WGA's contract with CBS lapsed April 1, 2005. Those continuing to work under the terms of the previous pact include 500 newswriters, editors, desk and production assistants, graphic artists, promotion writers and researchers in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.