Negotiations are set to resume this month between the union representing more than 2,100 L.A.-area TV production workers and Spanish-language stations KVEA (Channel 52) and KMEX (Channel 34).


The latest round of talks may prove more contentious because of a more activist leadership to Local 53 of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians/Communication Workers of America.


The new leadership, voted in last fall, has pledged to bring the contract at KVEA, a station acquired by NBC as part of its purchase of Telemundo Communications Corp., closer to parity with its contract at English-language cousin KNBC (Channel 4).


Election-related delays caused the KVEA contract, which expired Dec. 31, to be extended to April 30. Talks were set to begin Jan. 18.


"The membership felt there was a need for a change in direction," said Leroy Jackson Jr., newly elected president of the local and a technical operations worker at KMEX. "This group had been in power for almost a decade, so it's time for a new approach to our problems."


While the negotiations will focus on standard wage and benefit issues, they will also deal with the pay disparity between English- and Spanish-language stations.


A contract between NBC's local stations and the union pays the top production positions, including technical directors and videotape engineers, at least $42.10 per hour or $1,684.50 per week. The top production jobs at KVEA, including technical directors and post-production workers, pay $28 per hour, or $1,120 per week.


Despite the wider pay gap and the more vocal union leadership, Victor Franco, vice president of community affairs and media relations for Telemundo, called the tenor of the KVEA talks very positive.


"Both parties agreed to an extension to April 30, but we fully expect to reach an agreement before then," he said. "There is interest on both sides to reach a mutually beneficial agreement and I anticipate we'll do that."


The pay scale at Univision Communications Corp.'s KMEX is closer to its English-language counterparts. Top-tier production positions pay of $36.65 per hour, or $1,466 per 40-hour week.


But negotiations with KMEX have been going on since March, and Jackson said they are more heated than at KVEA.


"I attribute that to stubbornness," he said. "They could call me and settle this today if they wanted to, but they're just being stubborn."
Representatives of Univision and KMEX did not return calls.

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