Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wtae, On-Air Staff Tussle over Contract

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wtae, On-Air Staff Tussle over Contract

Article excerpt

Those who deliver the news are raising their voices. WTAE-TV's on- air staff has launched a social media campaign to protest what it says is unfair treatment by management.

"Hearst has recently signed contracts with AFTRA containing similar basic standards in six other cities, so we feel that Pittsburgh deserves the same standards. It's basic fairness," said John Hilsman, Pittsburgh executive director for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Scheduling is at the heart of the protest as 23 unionized anchors and reporters -- including those involved in sports and weather -- claim WTAE parent company Hearst Corp. is stalling negotiation talks. The next meeting is Tuesday.

"We all recognize that news is 24/7," Mr. Hilsman said. "But typically, you build into agreements like these provisions that take away the sting of disrupting people's lives."

Other employees at the station, such as camera operators, are represented by different unions.

Locally, AFTRA also represents on-air television talent at WPXI and KDKA. WTAE was part of a union until 12 years ago, when a close vote by its staff created a nonunion shop.

In June 2010, however, WTAE employees voted -- again, by a reportedly narrow margin -- to rejoin. Since then, more than a dozen collective bargaining sessions have yielded little progress to reach a contract.

Through Twitter, Facebook and printed materials, WTAE's on-air staff maintains it is being denied severance benefits for workers fired without cause, a minimum salary scale, overtime pay after eight hours in a work day, retirement benefits on the same terms as other employees at the station, and consideration for unscheduled call-outs, split shifts and work on the sixth consecutive day and thereafter. …

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