Business Manager Tony Sapienza
IBEW Members at WGME-TV Ratify New 3-Year Contract
September 20, 2018 - IBEW 1837 members working for Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s Portland, Maine, television station ratified a new 3-year agreement this week after rejecting a previous offer from the company by a 37 – 5 margin and authorizing a strike. The overwhelming strike vote was the first at WGME-TV in 30 years and helped to persuade the Company to improve their wage offer beyond what they’ve been offering their other employees.
Wages for those at or above top scale will increase 6 ¾% over the 3-year agreement while other employees in the wage progression will receive larger step increases. News Editors will have their pay scale improved to the same level as Operating Technicians, a longtime priority of the Union given the increasing workload and responsibilities of News Editors and their previous low pay.
“We’re very proud that our members at WGME-TV were willing to stand up and stand together to get a better contract,” IBEW 1837 Business Manager Dick Rogers said. “They sent a strong message to the Company that they were unhappy.”
Other improvements include hazardous duty pay for News Photographers who drive during snowstorms when a state of emergency has been declared and the addition of drone photography for news and commercials to the jurisdiction of the bargaining unit. A Company proposal for mandatory, unpaid “on call” status for some employees on weekends was ultimately dropped in exchange for the Union’s promise to “strenuously” encourage our members to respond to emergent weekend calls for overtime and an obligation to work collaboratively with the Company to come up with an on-call system if it becomes necessary.
Takeaways were minimal although the Company held fast on their refusal to call Producers in on overtime should another Producer call out sick. Producers made a compelling argument that the additional workload and stress was not only affecting the quality of the on-air product but also their personal well-being. The Company made it clear that they understood it may affect show quality but that was a management decision.
IBEW 1837 represents most of the people who work behind the scenes at the station, about 50 employees including photographers, news editors, producers, directors, maintenance engineers, operating technicians and assignment editors. Their ratification on Monday, September 17, also included a $400 signing bonus. In addition to Business Manager Rogers, the Union Negotiating Team included Chief Steward Jack Amrock, Steward Pierre Maurice, Stephanie Greenland, and IBEW 1837 Business Representative and Organizer Matt Beck.