NEW YORK — The strike against NBC by 2,800 technicians and off-camera news staffers continued in its 10th week Wednesday after federally mediated negotiations broke off after eight days.
"We were not able to resolve the dispute," said a spokeswoman for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, where officials of NBC and the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians had met.
The agency called off the talks Tuesday night after nine hours of bargaining. The main issues have included NBC's proposals on temporary hiring. The meetings were the result of a peace-making bid by Cardinal John O'Connor, the archbishop of New York. He met with NBC President Robert C. Wright and AFL-CIO Treasurer Thomas A. Donahue here on Aug. 20 and urged them to seek a settlement.
When the new negotiations began, both sides agreed not to discuss the bargaining publicly. Some strikers here thought that decision was a sign that their walkout--the longest in their union's history with NBC--might be settled shortly after Labor Day.
However, those hopes were dashed when the talks were called off Tuesday night. No new bargaining is scheduled.
"I'm devastated," said one of the estimated 350 network and local news staffers in the union. "I may look for another job. I don't know what's going on. We're all out here in limbo-land."
However, another striker, a veteran technician manning a picket outside NBC headquarters here Wednesday, said he wasn't surprised that the negotiations--the first by the two sides since July 23--ended in failure.
"No," he said. "They (NBC) didn't want to talk. They only went because they were pressured into by the cardinal (O'Connor) and the politicians."
The two strikers asked that their names not be used.
Carrie Biggs-Adams, head of NABET Local 53 in Burbank and one of the union's negotiators, said that there had been some progress in the negotiations on Monday in that NBC "at least moved slightly on some positions."
However, she said, the bargaining fell apart on Tuesday.
After a fruitless discussion of the recent sale to Westwood One of the NBC Radio network, which had employed about 100 union members, the union proposed resuming talks on matters of jurisdiction and "origination"--live remote broadcasts, such as sports telecasts, she said.
NBC balked, she said, and threated to pull out unless the union agreed to its proposals.
NBC spokesman Dom Giofre said federal mediators had ended the talks. "I think there has been an implication by NABET that we walked out," he said. "We did not."
Ever since the strike began on June 29, about 700 management, supervisory and other non-union employees at NBC have been filling in for the strikers--working, among other things, as editors, camera operators and technicians.
The pressure on them may increase if the walkout continues past the Sept. 14 start of the new TV season, particularly in sports.
During the pro football season, the network airs--on a regional basis--from four to seven games on Sundays, according to an NBC Sports spokesman.
In news, the strike has forced NBC to drop a planned prime-time special on the U.S. Constitution.
On another labor front, meanwhile, negotiators for CBS and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers met Wednesday for the third day in Phoenix, Ariz., bargaining on a new contract for 1,600 members of that union.
Like the union on strike at NBC, IBEW represents technical personnel, including news cameramen and videotape editors. However, its ranks don't include news writers and producers, as NABET represents at NBC.
Paul Wagner, business manager for IBEW Local 45 in Los Angeles, said that negotiators for his union and CBS "are just exploring each other's proposals right now."
Interviewed by phone from Phoenix, he said that the union probably would have a better idea of how the talks are shaping up by Sept. 20.
The union's three-year contract with CBS expires Sept. 30.