Striking writers and studios break off talks again

Sat Dec 8, 2007 12:45am EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Days after sounding a brief note of conciliation, studio bosses and striking screenwriters broke off contract talks again on Friday, dashing hopes the two sides were getting closer to settling the worst Hollywood labor crisis in two decades.

News that four straight days of negotiations had collapsed in acrimony came in a sharply worded statement issued late in the day by the studios' bargaining arm, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The studios blamed leaders of the Writers Guild of America for making "unreasonable demands that are roadblocks to real progress."

"We're disappointed to report that talks between the AMPTP and WGA have broken down yet again," the studios' statement said. "We're puzzled and disheartened by an ongoing WGA negotiating strategy that seems designed to delay or derail talks rather than facilitate an end to this strike."

The Writers Guild said the studio negotiators stormed off after the union refused to accept an "ultimatum" to give up several of its proposals in order to keep bargaining.

"This was clearly a setup," WGA chief negotiator David Young told Reuters. "This was a fake negotiation, so they could come in, and blame it on us, be intransigent, bang on the table and march out."

About 10,500 WGA members have been on strike since earlier talks collapsed on November 5 in a dispute that hinges on how much the writers should be paid for work used on the Internet.

The strike has halted production on dozens of TV shows, including most of the major networks' prime-time series, as well as several movies. Thousands of non-writing film and TV workers have been idled along with the WGA members on picket lines.   Continued...

<p>Striking writers wear hats in the rain during at a Writers Guild of America rally at FreeemantleMedia in Burbank, California, December 7, 2007. FreemantleMedia produces reality television programs, and the writers guild is seeking to represent reality show writers. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>