WGME-TV Settles Labor Dispute
Done deal: The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837 and WGME-TV in Portland have agreed on a new contract that covers about forty behind-the-scenes employees at the station. According to a news release from the union, the three-year contract ends contentious negotiations that began in early 2009 and at one point led to an advertising boycott of Channel 13 by Democratic gubernatorial candidates.
WGME is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group of Maryland, a company with a reputation for playing hardball in contract negotiations. The Portland deal isn’t likely to alter that image.
“It was a disappointing, concessionary contract considering how successful Sinclair Broadcasting and WGME have been,” Dick Rogers, union business manager, said in the release. “Ultimately in these tough economic times, it was the best package our union negotiating team could get for our members.”
The deal gives top-scale workers an immediate three-percent wage hike, with unspecified increases for other employees. Smaller pay raises are built into the second and third years. Those small amounts had to be hard pill for the union to swallow considering Sinclair unilaterally cut wages by as much as ten percent in 2010 after declaring that negotiations had deadlocked. The IBEW filed unfair labor practice charges against the company as a result of that action.
Earlier this year, WGME announced it would unilaterally institute other changes in working conditions, essentially forcing the union back to the bargaining table, where the IBEW had little choice but to give ground. The pact allows the station greater flexibility in assigning workers to tasks outside their job classifications. In return the union got what it called, “job security language and enhanced severance pay for workers impacted by the installation of new automated equipment.”
Clearer picture: WCSH-TV in Portland and WLBZ-TV in Bangor officially debuted their new high-definition news broadcasts on Oct. 24. It appears the two Gannett stations have HD capacity only for their in-studio shots. Live and filmed news stories from outside the stations will still be in standard definition.
This move makes top-rated Channel 6 the first to offer HD newscasts in the Portland-Lewiston-Auburn market, beating rival WGME, which expects to debut a more elaborate hi-def broadcast by December. Channel 2 is the second HD show in Bangor, behind market-leader WABI, which made the technology upgrade earlier this year.
Now, if only the better picture meant better content.
Fire bug: Dan Demeritt had his well-documented shortcomings as Gov. Paul LePage’s communications director and as a businessman. But there’s no evidence Demeritt is an arsonist – even though the Kennebec Journal keep making him look like one.
No charges have been filed as a result of an April fire at a property owned by Demeritt in Randolph. A KJ story on Oct. 12 made it clear police and prosecutors have a suspect, but lack sufficient evidence to indict him.
So, what’s with the Oct. 18 article that indicates someone else is being investigated for setting the fire? There’s nothing in the piece that states definitively that there’s another suspect, but the implication is that police are looking at Demeritt. The story devoted four paragraphs to old news about his shaky financial situation, apparently to establish that he had a motive. A clarification ran on Oct. 19 indicating the original suspect is still being investigated, but provided nothing further that cleared Demeritt.
On Oct. 20, Demeritt wrote a letter to the KJ that begins, “I am not an arsonist.” To date, the paper hasn’t printed his defense of himself, which states, “Stories based on assumptions and conjecture will lead people to their own conclusions. Based on what was reported, one can imagine my discomfort and why I felt compelled to chase down the inaccuracies of the story.”
Demeritt also wrote that the state fire marshal has confirmed to him and to the KJ’s city editor that he is not a suspect. To date, the only place this information has appeared is on the city editor’s Twitter account.
The paper would appear to owe Demeritt either a thorough explanation of its reasons for attempting to smear his reputation or a prominent apology. It should also be examining its policies to see that this sort of thing doesn’t happen to anybody else.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.