Hollywood studios open to mediation in labor talks

Thu Oct 23, 2008 9:28pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Major Hollywood studios on Thursday said they would accept the intervention of a federal mediator to help break a nearly 4-month-old deadlock in contract talks with the Screen Actors Guild.

But the grudging tone of a statement from the studios' bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, in accepting SAG's proposal to bring in a mediator left in doubt whether such a move would lead to a settlement.

No date for resuming labor talks was immediately set, but a source close to the producers said their negotiators planned to meet alone next Thursday with a mediator.

SAG's chief negotiator, Doug Allen, issued a terse statement saying only, "We look forward to meeting with the federal mediator and the AMPTP committee as soon as possible."

The studios broke off negotiations on June 30 when they presented SAG with a "final" offer, hours before the expiration of their old contract covering 120,000 union performers in prime-time television and movies.

Management's latest offer essentially mirrors terms approved by other Hollywood unions, including the accord that ended a 14-week strike by Hollywood screenwriters in February.

But SAG leaders have held out for a better deal. The two sides remain at odds over how actors should be paid for content delivered over the Internet and whether made-for-online productions should be subject to the union's contract.

In its statement embracing the help of mediation, the studios suggested they had made as many compromises as they could in the midst of a nationwide economic slowdown.   Continued...

<p>Tourists pause on a walkway at a shopping mall which offers a view of the famed Hollywood sign at the hills in California March 14, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>