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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

TROUBLE IN TV LAND

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 12:25 PM

After nine months of difficult negotiations, management at Cleveland’s WKYC-TV3 has broken off labor negotiations and implemented a unilateral pay cut for union members.

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, Communications Workers of America (NABET-CWA) says the station is in violation of its contract, which should have been in place for another 18 months. It’s filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board and is now seeking a federal injunction to enforce the contract.

For the pay period that began January 10, management implemented pay cuts for union members that amount to reduction of between 8 and 18 percent. Last week, 54 employees received their first reduced paycheck. Most of them have technical jobs, from broadcast maintenance to videography. The union says the station also implemented other unauthorized changes affecting work hours, sick days and vacation days.

The union’s national representative, Lou Fallot, has been traveling from Washington, D.C., to Cleveland for bargaining. A federal mediator became involved in September, but the station’s stance remained firm.
“From day one, they made statements saying they were going to get economic concessions by this or any other means,” says Fallot.

Early last year, non-union employees took a pay cut between 4 and 6 percent and accepted a one-week furlough. “We were willing to take the same pay cuts that the non-union people were talking,” says NABET-CWA Local 42 vice president James Kolendo. “They turned that down.”

Fallot says the union’s last offer was a five percent wage reduction. “The station said it wasn’t even worth a counter [offer],” reports Fallot. “They’re hellbent on achieving their proposals without doing any further bargaining.”

Fallot, who represents the union at a dozen stations, says the situation is “very unusual. I find Gannett [Broadcasting, WKYC’s parent corporation] to be the most greedy, arrogant company I’ve ever had the pleasure of negotiating.”

WKYC General Manager Brooke Spectorsky had no comment on the situation and characterized the cuts as “new posted conditions after reaching an impasse.” He said the station’s cuts would remain in effect “until such time as we sit back down and negotiate a new contact.”

A membership meeting is scheduled for February 13. Fallot would not discuss whether the union was considering a strike. — D.X. Ferris

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