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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Is WTMJ-TV Treating Its Workers Fairly?

Engineers’ union files a complaint with the NLRB

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The union that represents 44 broadcast engineers at Journal Broadcast Group’s WTMJ-TV, WTMJ-DT, WTMJ-AM and WKTI- FM is crying foul on the corporation’s efforts to negotinew contract for those workers.

At the end of April, while the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 715, AFL-CIO and Journal Broadcast Group were in contract negotiations, the corporation posted employment ads for engineering jobs, including chief engineers and all other engineers at stations across the country. According to IBEW Local 715, the job postings occurred after the Journal had told the union that it was going to “drastically” reduce the workforce.

On May 9, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Journal Broadcast Group with the National Labor Relations Board. Christopher Albrecht, president of IBEW Local 715, said Journal Broadcast Group has utilized questionable tactics to negotiate the new contract. The old one expired at the end of February.

“The employer basically came to the table with an entire list of takeaways, starting with all of our jurisdiction,” Albrecht said. He said the corporation wants to change previously agreed-to wage terms, remove seniority and restructure jobs so that fewer employees would be covered by the union. Albrecht said the number of represented employees would be reduced from 44 to 25 full- and part-time employees.

“They have not given a real reason, other than the fact that they can save money by using a non-union person,” Albrecht said.

Albrecht said that unlike previous contract negotiations, the Journal Broadcast Group is using an outside attorney and human resources specialist, instead of inhouse labor relations managers and station management. He said the IBEW and Journal-owned radio and TV stations have been negotiating successfully for 70 years, but this round of negotiations is different.

“When we had bargained with them in the past, it had been contentious, but we all had a goal to reach and in the end we reached it,” Albrecht said. Anne Schepp, vice president of human resources for Journal Broadcast Group, did not respond to the Shepherd’s requests to comment on this matter.

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