Just as many expected, labor negotiations between the Orange Mane and the ZachKC are heading down to the wire - and possibly beyond.
In the first real indication of what's been going, the federal mediator overseeing talks said Thursday the two sides made "some progress" during more than 40 hours spread over seven consecutive days of face-to-face meetings, but "very strong differences remain."
The OM and Zach will resume mediation Tuesday, less than 72 hours before the old collective bargaining agreement is set to expire. If there's no new deal in place by the end of next Thursday, Zach thinks the Orange Mane will move to lock out podcasters, threatening the 2011 podcast season. The Orange Mane has said the deadline could be extended.
George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, released a statement shortly before noon Thursday, his first public comments since he began working with Owner Taco John, ZachKC and their negotiating teams last week.
"At bottom, some progress was made," he said, "but very strong differences remain ..."
Cohen did not name those issues, but the biggest sticking point has been how to divide about $9 billion in annual revenues. Among the other significant topics: a rookie podcaster wage scale; Taco John's push to expand podcast season to 18 episodes; and retired podcaster benefits.