Striking writers, studios eye informal talks

Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:02pm EST
 
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Hollywood's striking writers and the major studios enter this week sharing a single resolve: once more, with feeling.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) will hold informal talks with studio CEOs this week in an effort to resume formal negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the studios' bargaining arm.

News of the development circulated Friday, a day after the Directors Guild of America sealed a new labor pact with a minimum of fuss. The WGA, which is now in Week 12 of its first strike in two decades, hasn't held a negotiating session with the AMPTP since December 7.

At least two top media chiefs -- News Corp. president Peter Chernin and CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves -- engaged in back-channel communications with guild officials during the weekend. A management source said it could take until midweek for the parties to advance those chats to more elaborate, if informal, discussions. But a top guild source said that select CEOs had agreed to discuss some ground rules for such talks Tuesday.

The significance of further informal talks directly with top studios executives is twofold.

First, it will allow both sides to sort through peripheral issues so the parties then can take into any resumed formal talks only those issues key to a settlement. Most specifically, the sides will have to sort through three somewhat fringe issues that the AMPTP has found objectionable: reality TV and animation jurisdiction, the right to stage sympathy strikes, and forced arbitration in residual situations involving vertically integrated businesses.

Second, the informal talks with studio chiefs will put guild negotiators in direct contact with those on the management side who can actually approve the most important components of a settlement. The AMPTP board is comprised mostly of senior labor-relations execs, whose authority extends only so far as their CEO bosses allow in many areas.

WGA brass will be huddling during the next few days to discuss further strategy in the talks.   Continued...

 
<p>Signs are piled up at the end of a rally of striking members of the Writers Guild of America, West in Hollywood, California in this file photo from Nov. 20, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>