NEW YORK — The longest strike in NBC history abruptly ended Saturday when two small holdout units in a 2,800-member union voted to ratify a contract that a majority of union members had approved a week ago.
"Obviously, we are pleased the strike is over," said NBC spokeswoman McClain Ramsey, who estimated that it will be another week before work schedules are prepared and the strikers are called back to their jobs.
The walkout by the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians had been in its 17th week. It began June 29 when NBC imposed a two-year contract that union negotiators previously had rejected.
Key issues in the strike were jurisdiction and job security.
Although union members voted by a margin of more than 2 to 1 last week to approve a new, slightly longer NBC contract, two small NABET units in Burbank and Chicago rejected the parts of the pact that applied to them.
Pact Expires in 1990
Under the union's all-or-nothing rules, the strike had to continue until all of its 14 separate units approved NBC's offer, which goes into effect now and expires on March 31, 1990.
A total of 28 negative votes had held up final approval. The union had scheduled federally mediated talks for Monday to resolve the impasse, but held preliminary talks with NBC Friday afternoon.
When the company "absolutely refused to move" on changes sought by the union, NABET International President James Nolan ordered Saturday's "re-vote" on the contract by the holdouts, a union official said.
"The company was so adamant that he felt there was no way we were going to get a change" in the contracts, said Carrie Biggs-Adams, president of NABET Local 53 in Burbank.
Vote to Ratify
The 27-member holdout local there, composed of air conditioning and building maintenance personnel, voted 8 to 6 to ratify the offer they previously had rejected by a vote of 11 to 8.
The 20-member Chicago unit, made up of part-time couriers, voted 16 to 2 to ratify their offer, according to Dick Beidel, spokesman for Local 411. The unit previously voted 17 to 1 to reject NBC's offer.
The two union officials said the dissidents had been under pressure from their union colleagues to ratify the pact and end the walkout, even though Biggs-Adams said many in her local "were supporting them strongly."
In a statement, the Burbank unit's members criticized NBC's "intransigence and irrational refusal to bargain," but acknowledged the financial and emotional toll the strike was having on their colleagues.
They thanked them, and said they "return to work with our heads held high with the knowledge that this has been but one battle in the labor relations war with our employers, NBC and GE."
The last was a reference to General Electric, which bought NBC and its parent company, RCA, last year, and has pressed NBC management for greater efficiencies and cost reductions in a changing TV marketplace.
Part of that drive, reflected in the contract that finally was approved, involved union concessions on so-called "daily hires"--employees hired by the day but without the guarantee of two weeks pay that had been in NABET's old contract, which expired March 31.
NBC, in a statement, said it believes "we reached a fair and balanced contract" and that it looks forward "to putting our company back together again."
Praise for Substitutes
It also praised the approximately 700 management and non-union employees who filled in for the strikers as technicians, camera operators, video tape editors and news writers and producers.
The strike, which affected the network and such programs as the "NBC Nightly News" and weekend sports telecasts, also affected the five television and eight radio stations that NBC owns. The television stations include KNBC-TV in Burbank.
In another labor matter, balloting on a contract for staff directors at CBS, NBC and ABC will end Monday, with the results expected to be announced later by the Directors Guild of America. The guild, which says about 1,000 members are covered by the contracts, had taken no position on the network contract offers.