Writers Guild East takes on CBS

Org receives government backing

The Writers Guild of America East has received initial backing from the federal government over an unfair labor practices complaint against CBS Broadcasting.

The complaint alleges that CBS unlawfully threatened an employee with termination for engaging in union activities and illegally restricted the access of guild reps to CBS facilities. The WGAE announced Thursday that the National Labor Relations Board had agreed to issue a formal complaint, triggering a hearing of the allegations before an administrative law judge on July 25.

In response, CBS spokesman Dana McClintock told Daily Variety, “We believe the complaint is not warranted and will be dismissed once the evidence is heard.”

The NLRB ruling is only the latest in a long line of bitter disputes stemming from the inability of the guild and the net to reach a contract agreement over the past two years.

When the WGA first filed the charges in April, CBS issued a response that accused WGA reps of violating the contract agreement by “continuously disturbing” CBS employees in their work areas during the preparation of live news broadcasts, resulting in disruption of on-air operations. CBS also said that the WGA was ignoring its concerns over the need to respect the standards in its contract and had spurned its offer to meet and discuss the situation.

The two sides have not negotiated since November, when CBS employees repped by the WGA overwhelmingly rejected the network’s latest contract proposal after the guild’s negotiating committee contended the proposal was unacceptable. The 500 employees have been working for the past two years under terms of the contract that expired in April 2005.

“Our members have been working in good faith without a contract for 30 months,” WGA East prexy Chris Albers said in a statement issued Thursday. “Instead of giving our members a fair and respectful contract, CBS has sought to limit our ability to access and support our membership as a way to force them to accept the inferior contract that they already rejected last November.”

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