The company acquiring local radio news titan WBZ-AM has indicated employees at the station will have to re-apply for their positions, and that it does not plan to honor two union contracts.
In a letter sent Thursday to a union official, an attorney for iHeartMedia said that the company “will interview and consider for employment the on-air announcers and off-air production staff currently employed by CBS at WBZ-AM.”
The letter goes on to say that iHeartMedia “will not be assuming the two collective bargaining agreements between CBS Radio” and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, SAG-AFTRA.
Tom Higgins, a Boston-based national director for SAG-AFTRA, said he hoped the letter represented a “misstep.” A handful of iHeartMedia managers who visited the station Thursday said they wanted the station’s transition to new ownership to be seamless.
“And a couple of hours later, I get that letter,” he said in a phone interview Friday night. “This sure doesn’t sound like seamless.”
Higgins said he forwarded the letter to WBZ staff on Friday. The station’s employees, he said, were in “total disbelief.”
Representatives from iHeartMedia did not immediately respond to messages Friday night.
Higgins said his union plans to meet with iHeartMedia brass early next week.
“They should honor our union contracts,” he said. “They should not disrespect people by having them re-apply for jobs that they’ve had for decades in some cases.”
He estimated that between 75 and 100 employees, including on-air talent, writers, producers, editors, and production assistants, would be affected.
“WBZ is a desirable commodity because it’s a very successful radio station,” said Higgins. “They do what they do well and they generate revenue. I don’t expect a company coming in would come in to sabotage that success.”
He added that he did not think iHeartMedia has “any intention of gutting” the station.
Earlier this week, it was announced that WBZ was among the Boston radio stations slated to get new owners under a deal that was aimed at winning federal approval of Entercom Communications Corp.’s merger with CBS Radio. As part of that deal, iHeartMedia would own WBZ-AM and classic rock staple 100.7 WZLX, while Entercom would get stations in other cities. The deal could close in mid-November, according to the letter.
A CBS Radio spokeswoman declined to comment. A message left with Entercom was not returned Friday night.
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