About 2,800 NBC cameramen and technicians edged closer to a walkout Wednesday after the latest round of talks at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service offices in New York ended in a stalemate.
Negotiators for both the network and the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) acknowledged that there was no progress made during seven hours of talks late Tuesday. It was the first time the two sides had met since NBC made its final offer to the union on April 2 in San Diego.
NABET, whose membership has declined to ratify the contract, has been working without a contract since April 1.
Though the two sides are separated by several issues, the key points revolve around job security and the length of the contract. NBC is offering a two-year contract that would give the network the right to begin hiring a small number of temporary non-union technicians on a per-diem basis. NABET wants a three- or four-year contract with no provision for per-diem hires.
Day Krolik III, NBC vice president for labor relations, warned union negotiators at the close of Tuesday's talks that the company's next step might be to simply implement the terms of the new contract without getting NABET approval.
NABET's chief negotiator, Thomas F. Kennedy, replied that such an action by NBC would have "serious ramifications and could certainly trigger a labor dispute."
"He didn't use the word strike , but it's no use playing cat and mouse here. That's what he meant. We're on a collision course," said NABET spokesman John Krieger.
The union did strike the network for seven weeks in 1976. But in its last bargaining session with NBC in 1984, camera operators, videotape editors and writers that NABET represents balked at an actual strike. They worked for 19 months without a contract before finally approving the network's offer.
Krolik made the veiled threat to force the contract on the union after NABET's negotiating team asked to add "hundreds" of proposed changes to the final contract offer at the Tuesday meeting, according to NBC spokeswoman McClain Ramsey. She said NABET negotiators said that it would have taken two weeks to read all of the changes that they wanted to make to the contract.
"Implementation is not something you do lightly," Ramsey said. "What you're looking for is a signed agreement. You go to implementation because it's a last resort."
Besides NBC personnel in Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., NABET represents about 700 NBC employees in Burbank, including about 200 KNBC-TV Channel 4 technicians and writers.