Mediator Recesses NABET Talks at ABC; Union Techs Pull One-Day Grievance Strike

Negotiations between NABET-CWA and ABC-Disney - under federal mediation aimed at securing a new contract - were recessed with no progress reported on Friday, Nov. 21.

Technicians have been working with-out a contract since last March 31.

Federal mediators, called into the talks at the request of management, suggested a recess after four days of subcommittee meetings on the issues of daily hires and jurisdiction over computers failed to produce progress, according to NABET-CWA Network Coordinator John Krieger, who chairs the union committee.

The talks are subject to call by the mediator, he added.

"The union made it clear that we were approaching these talks with a degree of cautious optimism but that optimism has now been replaced by disappointment," Krieger said.

He added that, although the company initiated the talks under the direction of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, management approached the table unwilling to modify its position on key issues.

"We responded to the FMCS request to meet with an open mind and we were prepared to negotiate,

not just reaffirm our position," Krieger said. "Unfortunately, the company was not prepared to negotiate."

ABC Wants Temps

When the parties gathered Nov. 17 in Secaucus, N.J., the company notified the union that it plans to hire approximately 350 temporary employees nationwide - a sore point with the union.

The company claims they have decided to hire the temporaries because management expects to exceed the 14-percent daily hire cap in the old contract before Dec. 31.

"The union believes the company already exceeded that limit," Krieger said, adding: "Had the company hired regular employees where there is a true full-time need - rather than abusing the daily hire provision - the company would not be in this position now."

ABC-Disney management earlier sought a waiver of the 14-percent cap and the union rejected the request.

"Many daily hires are refusing to accept temporary employment unless they receive the 30-percent premium they received as a daily hire," Krieger said, suggesting that daily hires accept no less than two weeks' employment with the 30-percent premium.

Grievance Strike

The talks on behalf of 2,700 ABC-Disney technicians and other skilled employees came only two weeks after NABET-CWA technicians staged a one-day grievance strike, forcing the network to cancel third-round coverage of the Professional Golfers Association Tour Championship.

Union officials said 77 ABC Sports technicians - all members of New York City NABET-CWA Local 16 - refused to report to work at the tournament in Houston at the Champions Golf Club on Nov. 1 - and that the network substituted coverage from the1995 third-round of the tournament instead.

Local 16 President Anthony B. Capitano called for the grievance strike after management repeatedly denied requests to arbitrate or reduce what he called "the unjust two-week suspension" of NABET-CWA shop steward Mark Johnson. Johnson was suspended in April for allegedly attaching a drawing that spoofed company executives to a notice of weekly job postings.

Jim Joyce, a member of the executive board of the local, told David Barron of the Houston Chronicle, "We apologize to the PGA and advertisers and golf fans for the inconvenience. However, ABC had the ability to settle this weeks ago by allowing a neutral third party to arbitrate our dispute."

Although the network explained the situation at noon on Nov. 1, when the broadcast was scheduled to begin, and offered occasional score updates after commercial breaks, scab personnel did not offer an on-screen explanation to viewers that they were watching taped coverage of a two-year-old event.

NABET-CWA camera operators, audio technicians, videotape operators and other technicians set up the picket line early on Nov. 1 - and all of the technicians, as well as members of other Houston-based unions working the event, honored the line, Capitano said.