Something seemed off about Golf Channel's second-round coverage of the 2018 Web.com Tour season opener on Sunday. (The tournament runs Saturday through Tuesday.)
The coverage opened without the normal Web.com Tour opening graphics and music, instead kicking off with the "Morning Drive" graphics package and coming in the studio to Damon Hack and Paige Mackenzie -- not the scheduled crew to be manning this coverage window.
As it turns out, this was the result of late scrambling by Golf Channel to have a somewhat cohesive broadcast after members of its technical and camera crews went on strike. No Laying Up first reported the news, suggesting a strike was threatened, then updating with new information.
The audio and utility crews, represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), went on strike after they rejected a contract extension offer from Golf Channel, which has been negotiating with the union. Members of the union were asked to remain in their hotels in the Bahamas, where the event is being played, and wait out a negotiation. Some are looking to make their way home to the United States in anticipation of a negotiation that could last beyond the scheduled completion of the event on Tuesday.
The strike stems from the union's belief they aren't paid fairly compared to other peers in the industry, as well over working conditions.
It is true ... We are not happy campers since the Golf Channel NBC Golf CANCELED our Health Insurance Coverage 6 months ago. Then they say we're a family.
— John G Boeddeker (@MyOfficeWindow) January 14, 2018
Golf Channel issued a statement Sunday afternoon on the dispute.
"Golf Channel has been working on negotiating an agreement for nine months with a union that represents our live tournament technicians," the statement read. "Those efforts have not yet yielded a resolution, and we look forward to reaching a mutually agreeable contract. However, some technicians have chosen to walk off the job today. We have contingency plans in place, and will continue to deliver coverage. Thank you to our viewers for their patience."
Talks, which started in June 2017, are apparently ongoing. Meanwhile, Golf Channel still has three live tournaments to air on Sunday: the Web.com Tour, the Diamond Resorts Invitational in Orlando and the final round of the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Hawaii, which begins at 6 p.m. Eastern. It's unclear if a new contract can be reached during the day or the approval procedure for members to ratify a new deal and get back to work before the day ends.
IATSE was retained as the union for many Golf Channel technical staff back in August 2017, when nearly 70 percent of Golf Channel workers in the union voted against a decertification effort to end IATSE's representation. A total of 390 Golf Channel broadcast workers are represented by the union.
“Many of these people have worked decades without accumulating any retirement or healthcare benefits,” said IATSE Broadcast Department Director Sandra England after the election. “This is another step in securing the future for their families, and the future of broadcast.”
The end result for the viewer is a herky-jerky broadcast product, with just a few cameras operational around a few holes. Golf Channel broadcast talent has been narrating the action from a one-shot location off the golf course in the Bahamas, while a pair of on-course commentators are contributing as well. They're not union members.
The PGA Tour, which isn't a party to the talks, issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying:
“We apologize for the interruptions to today’s PGA Tour telecasts due to a labor dispute between the Golf Channel and its live tournament technicians union. We are working closely with our partners at the Golf Channel to provide as much television coverage as possible of the Sony Open in Hawaii, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay and the Diamond Resorts Invitational in the interim. Of course, PGATour.com and the PGA Tour app will provide real-time scoring, and fans can follow tournament action via our social media channels. PGA Tour Radio on SiriusXM, which can be streamed for free on PGA Tour digital platforms, will also provide live coverage of the Sony Open as planned. Thank you for your patience and for being a valuable PGA Tour fan.”
The PGA Tour also issued a notice to the players in the Web.com Tour field about the labor issue and the resulting impact on TV coverage.
Here was the message communicated to the field at the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic pic.twitter.com/ySEJDfx3ZE
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) January 14, 2018
Will the same thing happen for the final round from Honolulu tonight? Stay tuned.