CBS' 315 striking newswriters split their time Wednesday between walking the picket line and boning up on a new pact that could end their 46-day walkout today.
Meetings to vote on the proposed three-year contract will be held simultaneously at 9:30 a.m. (PDT) in all four urban centers where Writers Guild of America members left their posts on March 2: Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago, according to guild spokesman Martin Waldman.
If the new pact is approved, guild members--including newswriters at KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KNX-AM (1070) in Los Angeles--could be back on the job by Friday. The strike has affected CBS News bureaus in all four cities as well as network owned-and-operated television and radio stations here, in Chicago and New York.
"I'm hoping they'll come back soon. I'll be pleased," KNX news director Bob Sims said. "It'll be nice to have a day off."
Sims' counterpart at KCBS, Don Dunkel, has made a policy of not speaking to the news media throughout the strike and remained unavailable for comment Wednesday.
"We really want to hold off on any comment," said a KCBS spokeswoman. "We don't want to jinx anything."
The new contract would provide:
--An immediate across-the-board pay increase of 3%, with an additional 3% hike at the end of the first and second years of the contract. Salaries under the old contract ranged from $274 to $790 per week.
--Arbitration in the event that CBS wanted to fire a guild member after giving the employee written warnings about job performance.
--Network authority to hire temporary, non-union employees, but not as replacements for guild members who were fired or resigned.
--Guild authority to place laid-off members in new network jobs provided they meet CBS qualifications.
--A formula whereby, in the event of a layoff, three-quarters of any guild work force would have to be dismissed in order of seniority.
--That KNX newswriters would no longer be required to wear neckties while performing their jobs.
Should CBS newswriters approve the pact, the fate of 210 fellow Writers Guild members who went on strike with them against ABC remained unresolved Wednesday. ABC and guild negotiators met throughout the day in New York, but had no progress to report by early afternoon.
The efforts to end the Writers Guild's first newswriters' strike against the networks came as members of a larger, more powerful union--the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians--began their third week of working without a contract with NBC.
The NBC contract with NABET, covering 2,800 technicians and news and sports staffers, expired March 31. As in the Writers Guild stalemate with the networks, job security and NBC's right to hire temporary employees have been the key bargaining points. NBC made what it termed its final offer to NABET on April 2 after a month of talks in San Diego, and there have been no further negotiations.
In the ABC-CBS dispute, the strikers, in addition to newswriters, include editors, desk assistants, researchers and graphic artists working in CBS and ABC radio and in their TV-network news operations here and in Washington, D.C.
Other stations involved outside Los Angeles are ABC-owned WABC-TV in New York and CBS-owned WBCS-TV and WCBS Radio in New York and WBBM-TV and WBBM Radio in Chicago.