NBC And NABET: Try, Try Again…

Representatives of the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees & Technicians and execs for NBC have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract. The deal essentially is the same pact union members rejected overwhelmingly twice before.

The decision to put the latest offer up for a vote is the result of a late round of negotiations held Jan. 14 in New York.

Ratification of the new pact is going to be tough, as the four locals involved – New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Burbank – are split, with Burbank and Chicago recommending that members vote against the current offer.

With the exception of two clauses, the contract is the same one union members declined last July.

The first modification changes dates of wage increases. The new version calls for a first-year increase of 3% on Jan. 31, retroactive to Jan. 5. On Aug. 19, members would get another 3% increase; on Aug. 15,1992, a bonus of 5%; and on Aug. 14,1993, an increase of 4%.

The second provision calls for NBC to guarantee that, should layoffs be necessary, union members first will be offered buyouts. In addition, NBC would be limited to cutting 4% of the NABET-represented staff at each location.

NABET negotiators appear to have conceded on daily hires and union jurisdiction, issues that had been major sticking points.

However, what is upsetting some union representatives is a proviso on the ballot stating that a “no” vote on the new contract would mean a “yes” vote authorizing a strike.

Visions of a long and damaging strike weigh heavily on NABET members. In 1987, NABET struggled through a 17-week strike at NBC that produced few benefits for the union, leaving it and its locals in chaos.

“I view it as coercion,” said Richard Smith, Local 53 (Burbank) president. “Because of the antistrike sentiment in the wake of our 1987 walkout, our members are going to be inclined to vote in the opposite direction when they see the word ‘strike’ on the ballot.”

NBC and NABET have been negotiating a new contract since the start of 1990. NBC declared the talks had reached an impasse and implemented its “final” offer Aug. 15,1990.

NABET’s contract with the network actually comprises 12 smaller agreements representing each of the union’s wings. In the past, all 12 of the divisions were required to ratify the deal to get the master contract passed. As a result of the tentative agreement, NABET’s unfair bargaining charges against the company, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, would be dropped, although some of the smaller issues would be dealt with as union grievances.

NABET is circulating ballots to members, with votes due on Jan. 30 by 5 p.m. Eastern time.

David Robbin Hollywood contributed to the report

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