AFTRA after WCBS following format change

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has accused Viacom’s Infinity Radio of violating terms of its contract covering severance payments for 33 announcers at WCBS-FM, which switched to the no-announcer Jack format over the Memorial Day weekend.

“WCBS-FM has a right to change its format,” said Richard Larkin, associate exec director/house counsel of AFTRA’s New York Local, “but it does not have a right to mislead the public, deceive the staff, and deceive the union.”

Following the announcement Thursday, Infinity spokeswoman Karen Mateo said in response, “We have honored the terms of the agreement that we negotiated with AFTRA.”

AFTRA said WCBS-FM agreed in 2003 that any format changes and resulting terminations would occur by January 2005, and that employees would receive appropriate severance pay for years of service. The union said the company has refused to pay severance on announcers individual salaries and paid no severance to former part-time employees.

Mateo said the part-timers’ severance payment were being processed.

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