WAITING GAME MAY BE OVER FOR NEWSWRITERS AT CBS : Andy Rooney Heading Back to Work at '60 Minutes'

"60 Minutes" humorist Andy Rooney, taken off CBS News' payroll on April 6 after he refused to work during the Writers Guild strike, said Wednesday he's going back to work now that it appears the strike will end.

"I'm on my way in now," he said in a brief phone interview from his home a day after the guild urged its 315 members at CBS to approve a new contract proposed by the company. They went on strike March 2.

"I'm going to talk to (Don) Hewitt," Rooney said, referring to the executive producer of the top-rated program on which he has appeared since 1978. "I suspect I'll probably have a piece on this week."

However, after talking later Wednesday with Hewitt, Rooney said his on-air return to the show will be next week. He said that producer Hewitt had pretty much set the show for broadcast for this week and there was no room for a new segment.

A guild source said it was expected that the striking CBS workers would approve the pact when they vote on it today. A guild strike against ABC, also begun March 2, is continuing, as are negotiations to end it.(See accompanying story by Dennis McDougal).

Rooney has been a guild member for 30 years. But in his on-air job, he is represented by another union not on strike--the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists--and could have crossed the guild picket line.

He chose not to do that. During the strike, he has appeared once on "60 Minutes," but that was a segment he taped before the walkout, he said.

He said he was pleased by a provision in CBS' proposed contract that gives amnesty to any employee who refused to cross the guild's picket line during the strike. "I owe somebody lunch, whoever wrote that in," he said.

However, a CBS spokesman emphasized that the amnesty provision does not mean such employees will be paid for not working.

This would mean that Rooney, who now earns $416,000 annually, will lose $11,200 for the seven days he stayed off the job after refusing the request of CBS News President Howard Stringer to report for duty.

The veteran correspondent was asked if the first "60 Minutes" essay he does when he returns to work will be about the guild's long strike.

"I doubt it," Rooney said. "I think that would be inadvisable, for the same reason that newspapers don't investigate themselves."

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