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CBS News and WGA reach deal, finally

By Dave McNary

The WGA has reached a tentative deal with CBS covering about 500 news employees, who have worked for nearly two years without a new contract.

The deal comes seven weeks after the CBS News employees repped by the guild gave the WGA a strike authorization with 81% support. That raised the prospect of the WGA conducting two strikes at once but recent negotiations between the WGA and the net were productive enough to lead to the deal.

The WGA-CBS agreement covers newswriters, editors, desk assistants, production assistants, graphic artists, promotion writers and researchers in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

In an announcement Wednesday afternoon, the WGA said the agreement has been approved unanimously by the WGA-CBS Negotiating Committee. It must still be ratified by membership vote.
If ratified, the new contract will run until April 1, 2010. WGA-repped CBS News employees will receive a 3.5% raise upon ratification of the contract and again in 2009.

The WGA also said that most regularly scheduled employees who worked 200 days or more in 2007 and did not receive wage increases during the negotiations will receive an additional $3,700 payment, while employees who worked shorter schedules will receive pro-rated payments.

The guild also noted that CBS dropped its demand to create a two-tiered work force that would have provided lower salary increases for local radio employees and its demand for the right to assign current WGA responsibilities at KNX Radio to non-WGA employees. It also announced that both sides agreed to a 90-day notification and bargaining period should CBS decide to consolidate operations and that changes to the contract may be imposed during that period.

“This has been a long struggle, but our members became mobilized and engaged in a way they have never been before,” said WGA East exec director Mona Mangan. “This contract truly belongs to them.”
“This has been a difficult process,” said WGA East prexy Michael Winship. “We are pleased that it has resulted in an agreement that will protect our members at CBS News and insure that they will continue to bring their exceptional skills, creativity and know-how to the production of quality broadcast journalism.”

CBS in a statement echoed Mangan and Winship’s sentiments: “We are gratified that a tentative agreement has been reached so that CBS and its valued WGA news employees can put this chapter behind us. Our focus throughout the process has been on reaching a fair agreement and we think this contract is good for both sides.”

WGA West prez Patric Verrone chimed in to ask urge CBS Corp. — a key member of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers – return to the table to resume the stalled film and TV contract talks. Those negotiations collapsed Dec. 7 after the AMPTP demanded that the WGA remove six proposals from the table.

“This is good news for newswriters and I congratulate them. After months without negotiations, once bargaining resumed we were able to reach an agreement quickly,” Verrone said. “We ask CBS to come back to the table with the will to make a deal with striking film and television writers.”