ABC, NABET draw lines over Oscar

Union threatens strike during Academy broadcast

NEW YORK — Movie fans who show up on Monday to see the stars enter Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium for the Academy Awards will also see something else: An angry mob of 200 NABET members protesting what they allege is collusion between ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to cut NABET from working the awards telecast.

The National Assn. of Broadcast Employees & Technicians’ complaints against ABC are a year old, but the union has escalated the rhetorical ante for its Oscars protest.

NABET Local 57 prexy Gena Stinnett warned the Academy that it “has not achieved a level of protection of disruption, as our members may choose to engage in a strike against ABC at any time, including during the Oscar telecast.”

“This is war. Disney/ABC has declared war on us, our job security and our families,” read an ad taken out by NABET on Tuesday.

The Oscars protest is the latest action by NABET, whose members have been without an ABC labor contract since March 31, 1997. NABET and ABC have not held negotiations since November.

NABET has yanked the Academy into its fight with ABC because the Academy, fearing a strike during the Oscars, asked ABC to not use NABET technicians and camera operators during the Academy Awards telecast.

“We blame ABC,” said Dan Mahoney, secretary treasurer for NABET Local 57. “We suspect they went to the Academy to get us removed.”

ABC’s position is that the Academy didn’t have much choice but to cut NABET out of the Oscars.

“NABET is complaining about a situation they created themselves,” said ABC representative Julie Hoover. “The Academy is a non-profit organization that gets much of its revenues from this telecast. It could not afford to have the fate of this show wrapped up in a labor dispute. The Academy was well within its rights to come to us to take over the production.”

Hoover said that “there have been continuous strike threats” from NABET. The dispute between ABC and NABET has so far resulted in one grievance strike by the union. A 24-hour November strike during the third round of the Tour Championship Golf tournament in Houston caused ABC to cancel its coverage of the event.

Hoover said that ABC has hired union members from the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) to work the Oscars instead of NABET.

NABET has filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming it has a jurisdictional right to work the Academy Awards, and is hoping for a decision in its favor by Friday. ABC said that NABET’s charges are “without merit.”

The dispute between ABC and NABET centers on two issues: pension contributions and daily hired workers. NABET contends that ABC wants to cut its contributions back to a minuscule percentage of employees’ base salaries, while ABC maintains its offer is as good as any in the industry. ABC wants to increase the amount of daily (or part time) workers it can hire.

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