Electricians at Eye spark contract talks

Vote down web's latest proposal

NEW YORK — With Nagano out of the way, labor troubles at the Eye web moved to the front burner — and could be about to boil over.

CBS union members of the Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1212 have been working without a contract since July 1997, and on Feb. 20, voted down the network’s latest proposal.

“There’s a lot of emotion involved here,” IBEW broadcast department director Jack Stanley told Daily Variety. “The members are really unhappy about no retroactive money. They want more stability. And, the network is cutting into the jurisdiction rules concerning who can work what equipment.” One source privy to the details of the network’s offer called it “devastating” and said CBS was playing “dirty pool” with the union over issues like overtime.

Current advertisements in a trade magazine, mentioning a “major broadcast facility” in Gotham, are requesting broadcast technical personnel for “employment (that) would occur in the event of a work stoppage, and would be of a temporary nature to replace striking personnel.”

The ads were placed by a group called Media Management Services, which has no telephone listing in the New York area. Union officials are speculating that the company is either a “network front” or a headhunting group “looking for scabs.”

The IBEW’s Stanley, who is based in Washington, D.C., said the purpose of the ads could be to replace workers at either ABC or CBS — both of which are involved in labor negotiations — in the event of a strike.

Sources say the IBEW local has rented a storefront across the street from CBS on 57th Street, and at one point, was brandishing a banner that read, “IBEW Strike Headquarters.”

Several insiders on Broadcast Row were wondering late last week whether the Feb. 20 “accidental” C-band satcast of a CBS News “practice report” about the U.S. bombing Iraq could have been an “internal tactic.”

CBS declined to comment about labor negotiations on Feb. 27. Earlier in the week, a spokesperson said the bogus report featuring anchor Dan Rather and correspondent David Martin was to have been delivered only to New York and D.C. newsrooms via a fiber optic link.

Instead, Rather’s declaration of war got flipped onto “the bird,” and could have been seen in as many as 2 million American homes with C-band satellite dishes.

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