The union representing 2,800 producers, writers, and technicians in six cities went on strike Monday against NBC in the third and largest strike against a network this year. Picketing also began at network-owned stations in San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago, Washington, and Burbank, Calif.
Union leaders charged that NBC's proposed two-year contract threatened job security and the union by demanding that non-union workers and management be allowed to do tasks now strictly performed by union members.
NBC pointed out that the National Labor Relations Board last week dismissed seven unfair labor practice charges filed by the union, and accused the union's leadership of ignoring members.
``For the last 11 weeks, NABET employees working without a contract have never been given the opportunity to vote on the proposed agreement presented to the union by NBC on March 31,'' said a statement read by a network spokesman.
``We believe that if union members had been given the opportunity of working under the new contract, they would agree with NBC that it is a fair, reasonable and balanced agreement for the company, the union and their employees.''
A 3-hour session called by a federal mediator Sunday failed to produce an agreement or push back the midnight deadline. It was only the second session since the contract expired March 31.
This is the third strike against a network this year as networks - or their new corporate owners - look for ways to cut costs and unions try to keep gains of past years. A total of 575 CBS and ABC editorial workers struck for nearly two months this spring, also over job security.
The NBC strike affects approximately one-third of NBC's work force, including a variety of technical positions such as camera operators and videotape operators, as well as production assistants and editors.
NBC officials say management and non-union personnel have been trained to perform the jobs under NABET jurisdiction, but union members say quality will suffer.
Pickets blamed the network's hardened stance on General Electric, which last year took over RCA, NBC's parent company. These were the first negotiations by NBC since the takeover.