Network and union negotiators have reached tentative agreement on a three-year contract for on-air correspondents and anchors, thus averting what could have been the first strike in 19 years by network journalists, the union says.
Negotiators for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists reached accord on the new pact with CBS, NBC and ABC, and now will recommend that the union's national board accept the contract, according to union spokesman Dick Moore.
After that, Moore said Monday, the contract faces a final vote by the 500 on-air news personnel that AFTRA represents at the networks and at network-owned stations, including KCBS-TV Channel 2, KABC-TV Channel 7 and KNBC Channel 4 in Los Angeles.
Prior to the tentative settlement reached early Saturday morning, John C. Hall Jr., the union's executive secretary, warned in an interview that there was a "real possibility of a strike" because of a dispute over broadcast technology.
At issue, Hall said, were management proposals that eventually would give networks the right to assign on-air correspondents to handle cameras, edit their own news tape and do other technical chores that now are handled by members of two major technical unions.
Those unions are the National Association of Broadcast Employes and Technicians, representing staffers at NBC and ABC, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, representing those at CBS.
But the impasse between Hall's union and the networks has been resolved, AFTRA said in a prepared statement. It said that the networks agreed to postpone proposals to assign technical duties to correspondents until the unions with jurisdiction over those duties agree to relinquish their jurisdiction over that work.
Only after that happens, AFTRA said, will the matter of technical duties for on-air news personnel "be a subject of discussion" between it and the networks.
"For its part, AFTRA acknowledges the need to deal with technical change in an orderly way," the union statement added.
Network officials declined to comment during the negotiations with AFTRA. A CBS spokesman said Monday that the networks had no comment on the tentative settlement announced by the union, other than that "as far as we're concerned, it's the conclusion of normal negotiations."
The AFTRA statement said the new contract included improvements in severance pay and in pension and benefit programs. Details of the new pact will be released after it has been studied by the union's national board, the statement said.
The union's previous contract with the networks expired last Nov. 16. Negotiations on a new one began late last year. If approved by union members, the new agreement would run through Nov. 16, 1988.