Don’t look for a quick resolution of the contract dispute between CBS and the Writers Guild of America East.
In a sharply worded internal CBS memo obtained by Daily Variety, CBS labor relations chief Harry Isaacs seems to be preparing his brass for the long haul, writing that the guild “has demonstrated it prefers to engage in tactics attempting to ridicule or embarrass management with street theater and leaks to the press rather than engaging in the kind of meaningful collective bargaining we take part in with every single other labor union.”
Members of the guild, which covers 500 staffers at CBS News and a number of Eye-owned TV and radio stations, have been working without a contract since April. Two sides last met in August, with little or no progress reported.
Isaacs writes the WGA East leadership has rejected 73 potential dates for bargaining since April and yet “the union has found the time to picked or hold rallies at least eight times” in the same frame. One rally last spring had guild members wearing masks of Eye topper Leslie Moonves.
Guild staffers at ABC have been working sans contract since January, and Isaacs charges the Alphabet has also “made little or no progress toward a deal” and accuses the WGA East of a “policy of intransigence and public truculence.”
Isaacs writes that the WGA started negotiations with a whopping 100 contract proposals, while the Eye had just 31 points of contention. He says the net has taken off one-third of its issues “in a good faith effort,” but that the union has budged on just two proposals.
“Incredibly, the union has yet to even specify its wage demands,” Isaacs contends.
“Negotiation is a two-way street, and the union has done nothing to demonstrate a willingness to discuss any issue in a substantive manner.”
It’s not the first time the Eye and WGA East have had trouble reaching accord. Past contract talks have also been contentious and dragged out for months.
CBS declined comment, and the WGA East’s offices were closed for the Columbus Day holiday.
A statement on the guild’s Web site, posted after the August talks, claimed the Eye’s “proposals continue to demand substantial incursions into the guild’s jurisdiction and pay.” Site also includes a poll in which members can vote for their favorite anti-CBS chant, apparently to be used at the WGA East’s next rally.
One choice: “Les needs less, we need more!”