New owner of WBZ-AM reaches tentative deal with union
The new owner of radio news broadcaster WBZ-AM has reached a tentative deal with the union representing employees at the station, an agreement that would settle a mounting dispute over whether workers -- including on-air talent -- would keep their jobs though the transition.
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said in a statement that it is looking forward “to a good partnership for this New England institution” after negotiations that followed WBZ-AM’s takeover by Texas-based iHeartMedia.
“SAG-AFTRA members and iHeart management representatives worked hard for this resolution,” the statement said. Union members must still vote to ratify the deal, and could do so as soon as Monday.
A representative for iHeartMedia added that the company is “looking forward to adding this iconic Boston station, and the talented, dedicated and respected WBZ team” to its company.
IHeartmedia is taking over the station as part of a broad reorganization of the Boston radio market engineered last week to clear the way for a merger between Entercom and CBS Radio, which previously owned WBZ-AM.
The new owner quickly found itself facing a controversy over the acquisition, after it informed employees that they would have to re-apply for their jobs, and that the company did not plan to honor SAG-AFTRA contracts. The union represents about 75 people.
In response, supporters of station employees started an online petition -- signed by nearly 900 people -- threatening to stop listening to the news station if the new owner substantially reduced the newsroom staff. U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey has publicly urged iHeartMedia to “do right by” WBZ-AM employees.
A person familiar with the specifics of the agreement said the deal would allow employees to keep their jobs through the transition, and that the company would negotiate with the union on a longer-term deal early next year next year.
Compensation and benefits would remain essentially the same, the person said.