Striking writers, studios head for renewed talks

Tue Jan 22, 2008 9:42pm EST
 
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Striking Hollywood writers will meet face to face with studio executives this week for the first time since their contract talks collapsed on December 7, the two sides said on Tuesday.

The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will open "informal discussions" on Wednesday to "determine if there is a basis for both parties to return to formal negotiations," the union and studios said in a joint statement.

In a separate open letter to their members, WGA leaders added that in the interest of "bringing a speedy conclusion to negotiations" they were abandoning two union proposals vigorously opposed by the studios.

Both sides said they would adhere to a media blackout until those talks are concluded. Industry sources familiar with the matter said earlier that the latest discussions were aimed at reaching agreement on the broad outlines of a possible settlement of the strike, now in its 12th week.

News Corp. President Peter Chernin and Walt Disney Co. President Robert Iger were expected to take the lead in those talks for management, as they did in unofficial discussions that paved the way for last week's contract deal between the studios and the Directors Guild of America.

The DGA deal announced after two weeks of informal talks and six days of full-fledged bargaining included provisions to pay union members more for work distributed over the Internet -- a key sticking point in stalled talks with the writers.

It remained to be seen whether the writers regard the directors' labor pact as a template for their own deal. The WGA said it was still reviewing the directors' contract.

But the writers and studios were at least, after months of failed on-and-off bargaining, emulating a negotiating model used by the directors.   Continued...

 
<p>A picket sign from the Writers Guild of America is seen as members protest in front of NBC studios in Burbank, California January 2, 2008. Striking Hollywood writers will meet face to face with studio executives this week for the first time since their contract talks collapsed on December 7, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>