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ABC, WGA East Make Deal for Newswriters

New contract affects about 250 news employees in New York, D.C.

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) and ABC have reached tentative agreement on a new contract for the WGAE-ABC news employees.

Under the terms of the tentative agreement, WGAE-ABC employees would receive wage increases of at least 2% per year in each year of the contract. The first increase would take place on April 12, 2010.

The agreement, which was recommended by the WGAE-ABC negotiating committee, is subject to approval by the WGAE Council and a ratification vote by members covered by the contract.

Approximately 250 newswriters, editors, desk assistants, production assistants, graphic artists and researchers in national and local television and radio in New York and Washington, D.C., are affected.

“The tentative agreement achieves our goals of protecting our members’ economic interests and ensuring that the Guild and its members remain central to the company’s operation as the broadcast news business is transformed in coming years,” Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East, said in a statement.

“Given the depressed state of the international economy in general and the difficulties in broadcast news in particular, we are pleased this contract gives our members a wage increase and provides job protections,” he added.

In addition to the wage increases, for the first time, the contract provides a substantial minimum salary and enhanced severance package for writers who produce shows for WABC-TV, as well as a training stipend for any WABC-TV newswriters who may be laid off as a result of a change in the seniority list.

Several other payments to members, including the promo/continuity availability fee and acting editor fee, would be increased under the new contract.

In reaching the agreement, the WGAE also agreed to ABC’s requests for greater flexibility in work assignments, but improved job security protections for any members who might be affected.

“The contract takes into consideration the direction the industry is headed because of technology and economics, and recognizes that our members are particularly well suited to thrive in this environment. They know how to structure and present news in a reliable, compelling way, and they have welcomed the opportunity to broaden their skills and knowledge. We look forward to working with ABC in this new era,” Peterson said.