PR pros at ABC walk out on Election eve

NEW YORK: Around 15 ABC PR staff were involved in a wildcat strike Monday, November 2, leaving senior colleagues at the broadcast network answering a volley of press calls - slap bang in the middle of Election 98.

NEW YORK: Around 15 ABC PR staff were involved in a wildcat strike Monday, November 2, leaving senior colleagues at the broadcast network answering a volley of press calls - slap bang in the middle of Election 98.

The involvement of PR staff in a strike is highly unusual, as few in the profession are represented by a union. But a number of ABC's PR staff are part of the technicians' union, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET).

Media relations executives stood with technicians on the picket line after NABET called the one-day action over lack of information about healthcare.

The difficulties for the senior communications staff were compounded when ABC management decided to lockout staff involved in the strike to protest the lack of warning. The dispute has affected the recording of a number of ABC shows including sports and Good Morning America.

The lack of communications staff meant that senior colleagues were forced to carry the burden of an additional workload. The lockout began election-eve and during the crucial November sweeps period. The networks roll out their best programming during this time in order to maximize their advertising rates. Also, program publicists traditionally make the most of ratings' achievements in the press.

An ABC spokeswoman said, 'We are filling in for staff. Everybody has been writing press releases.'

ABC's problems increased on Monday night when its Internet staff posted test elections results on the ABC News site. The site appeared to have advance information of the results before a single vote had been cast.

A spokeswoman for ABC-News.com said, 'We were running tests in anticipation of the results and it got pushed live. We sincerely regret that happened.'.

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