- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

National Public Radio is advertising for replacement workers for about 80 technical employees in case they strike, but the union negotiating a new contract for the employees said it isn't planning a walkout.
The technical workers, including studio engineers and field engineers, are voting on a new four-year contract that calls for a retroactive 5 percent pay raise in the first year and a 3 percent pay raise for the next three years.
The ballots will be counted tomorrow. The workers are expected to reject the offer, but they are likely to want to continue the talks, according to the union negotiator.
"We have given no indication that we plan to strike," said Paula Olson, staff negotiator for the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians.
This will be the first contract the union has negotiated for the NPR employees, who agreed to have the union represent them about two years ago. Negotiations have been taking place since then, and worker pay is one of the last issues to be finalized.
NPR is advertising in trade publications for replacement workers because it wants to be prepared if a walkout occurs, according to an executive for the nonprofit broadcaster who did want to be named.
The ads call for experienced technicians who can start on short notice and state that NPR will provide housing and expenses for out-of-state workers.
"We respect our technical workers, but we want to be prepared," the executive said. The broadcaster believes it has made the workers a fair offer.
Radio Business Report, an industry trade publication, called the ads a "scare tactic" in an editorial last week.
The weeklypublication noted that NPR is "employing rather traditional bargaining tactics" even though its public affairs and cultural programming has a reputation for having a liberal political bent.
NPR provides its commercial-free programming to more than 640 member stations across the country. The independent broadcaster receives some government money, although its primary source of funding comes from member-station dues and fees and contributions from its listeners.
If a strike occurs, NPR's hosts, anchors and reporters would not join the walkout.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the union that represents more than 300 NPR workers, primarily on-air talent, has a no-strike clause in its contract.
"We will honor the no-strike clause, but our members will not perform any of the duties that [ technical workers] now do, said Patricia O'Donnell, executive director of the federation's D.C. chapterter.

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