But sides agree to keep talking in latest round of negotiations

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians on Monday concluded five days of talks with ABC without reaching agreement on a contract.

No new talks were set, but a statement by NABET said, “The parties agreed to keep open the lines of communications between them.”

The union, which has been working sans contract at the net for 19 months, says ABC “wants us to agree to reduce the standard of living of hundreds of our members,” according to a NABET statement issued Tuesday.

“We disagree,” the statement went on. “We believe that there is no reason to negotiate a reduction in our standard of living that our members enjoy when the employer we are negotiating with is extremely profitable.”

The two sides have met sporadically since early last year, when NABET’s contract expired, but have yet to reach a meeting of the minds on the issues that divide them.

“We are deeply disappointed that the union said no to everything,” ABC spokeswoman Julie Hoover told Daily Variety Tuesday. “Since March of 1997 they have agreed to nothing, and we know that to maintain our competitive position it’s essential to operate with the efficiencies that our competitors now have available under their collective bargaining agreements with their unions, including NABET.”

Differing views

ABC contends that it is merely seeking the same contract terms that NBC got out of NABET four years ago.

“The gulf that continues to separate the parties is the union’s unwillingness to acknowledge competitive realities,” Hoover said.

ABC employees were issued a memo Tuesday saying that, “regrettably, no progress was made toward reaching a contract and no new talks are scheduled.” The memo said ABC “made a number of modifica-tions and withdrawals to its earlier proposals — 16 in all — in an effort to keep the negotiations moving forward.”

The proposed withdrawals dealt with night-shift differential relief, separate seniority for network and WABC workers in New York, and the right to have newswriters in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco edit on traditional, noncomputer technical equipment.

But NABET says the net has “steadfastly refused to move on the five major critical areas: union jurisdiction over new technology; pension contributions; daily hires; benefits; and the working conditions at KGO-TV, the ABC O&O in San Francisco.

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