- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

A nationwide strike authorization that includes 330 local NBC workers, combined with the “emotional roller coaster” of negotiations at the local ABC affiliate, could mean a rough road ahead for the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America Local 31 and their employers.

Job security and work-hour changes are among the union’s issues and negotiations for a new contract covering about 2,500 NBC employees nationwide. The current deal expired March 31.

The strike authorization covers employees at NBC Universal and network owned-and-operated stations, including WRC-TV (Channel 4).

The strike vote was “very, very strong” among the 330 union members employed by NBC and WRC, said Rich McDermott, the lead negotiator for Local 31 and a camera editor at NBC News Channel in Washington. There is no official bargaining session planned with NBC, but NABET’s committee will meet later this month in New York, he added.

“NABET-CWA still owes the company a response to the company’s last offer made on April 11,” according to a NBC Universal statement issued yesterday. “The company remains optimistic that the negotiations will be resolved amicably.”

Meanwhile, things at WJLA-TV (Channel 7) and its cable sister, NewsChannel 8, where about 70 union members have been working without a contract since January 2005, once again appear rocky.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” said Local 31 president Mark Peach, referring to the stalemate, progress, stalemate nature of the negotiations over the past six months. After agreeing on wage parity and seniority issues, the union told the Allbritton Communications Co.-owned stations that anything less than a full arbitration process by a neutral third party could not be recommended to members for ratification.

But the company wants to control that process and, if it deems arbitration unnecessary, would offer eight months severance for employees with 10 years or more of service and four months for those with less than 10 years, according to its latest proposal that was sent to union members Friday.

“We believe we’ve made a very fair offer and we hope the bargaining unit will vote to accept it,” said Bill Lord, vice president of news at WJLA and NewsChannel 8.

The ballots will be counted June 16, but Mr. Peach said he expects the proposal to be rejected. If that occurs, the union will once again “mobilize” by distributing fliers outside businesses that advertise on WJLA, he added.

WJFK’s new lineup

Shock-jocks Opie and Anthony (O&A;), whose show could be heard on CBS Radio’s WJFK-FM (106.7) until being canceled by the parent company in the summer of 2002 after an indecent on-air stunt, will be returning to the station this month.

New York-based O&A;’s XM Satellite Radio show will air from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., replacing “The Peter Rosenberg Show,” which will continue its development on weekends, said Michael Hughes, general manager of CBS Radio in Washington.

The midday period has suffered in the ratings since shock-jock Howard Stern’s departure for Sirius Satellite Radio forced WJFK to juggle its lineup. Beginning June 26, it will be: “The Junkies” in the morning, then O&A;, two hours of Bill O’Reilly, the “Don and Mike Show” until 7 p.m., and then one hour of Penn Jillette.

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Most of the other CBS stations are airing O&A; live (and censored) for three hours starting at 6 a.m., but Mr. Hughes said that was “not even considered” at WJFK, which is committed to “The Junkies.”

“We just can’t wait,” Gregg “Opie” Hughes said. “We were just starting to get things going in Washington when we got yanked.”

Anthony Cumia said visits are being planned to Washington and the other cities welcoming back O&A;, but he did not offer any details.

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