Writers Guild East Files Grievance With CBS News Over Backpay (Exclusive)

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The Writers Guild of America East has filed a grievance with CBS News over alleged unpaid backpay nearly two months after members ratified a new three-year contract with the division.

The union, which alongside its sister union the WGA West represents around 260 CBS News newswriters, producers, graphic artists and others based in multiple cities in collective bargaining, filed the grievance on Friday morning in an email to CBS News’ legal representatives, alleging that a number of changes in pay agreed to in the last round of contract negotiations have not yet been implemented. Specifically, the union is saying that most staffers at the company have not received their retroactive pay, dating back to April 3, that the new, ratified contract calls for. According to the union, no one on staff has been paid retroactive backpay for overtime hours.

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Further, the WGA East alleges that “temporary employees” (per diem employees) have neither received retroactive pay nor have they been yet paid the minimum wage increase that was negotiated (up 3.5 percent in the first year of the contract). Producers’ and acting editors’ new, higher fees, the union says, have not been observed yet, nor have their retroactive payments with those higher fees.

In a comment, a CBS News and Stations spokesperson said, “We greatly value our CBS News and Stations employees who are members of the WGA. We were very pleased to reach an agreement for a new contract with the WGA, which was ratified by the membership in late May.” The spokesperson added, “Since that time, we have been working to process the agreed upon wage increases and retroactivity payments, and we have kept the union fully informed during every step of the way. We will honor our agreement as we always have.”

Like many union contracts, the deal between the WGA East and West and CBS News outlines a grievance and arbitration process if there is a dispute over the implementation of the deal. The WGA East says that if the backpay issue they raised is not dealt with quickly, they plan on bringing the grievance to a third-party arbitrator.

“During our negotiations we made it clear to management that Guild members at CBS News are angry and frustrated, that they have felt undervalued and overworked for a long time,” WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson said in a statement. “Despite this, our bargaining committee and members focused on reaching a reasonable agreement, which we achieved with a lot of membership effort and support. The one thing the company had to get right was implementation of the pay increases in the agreement, and this has failed.” He added, “Members are telling us this feels like the very last straw.”

The WGA East and West’s latest CBS News deal was reached in April 2022 after several months of talks, and members ratified the agreement in May, with over 89 percent voting “yes” on the contract. The Guild touted its rates increases, as well as new language over severance pay and parental leave for full-time temps considered long-term workers, as important wins in the agreement. “In a challenging environment, we were able to make real gains,” Peterson said at the time of the deal’s ratification.

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