Hollywood Writers Resuming Talks

The Writers Guild of America will resume bargaining Tuesday with the organization representing film and television producers in an attempt to stave off a potential strike starting May 1.

Negotiations between writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers broke off last month without an agreement. The current contract for the Writers Guild’s 11,000 members expires May 1. Members are seeking more money for writers when programs are rebroadcast domestically and in foreign markets and when shows are distributed on video, DVD and the Internet.

John Wells, president of the Guild’s western unit, has said Hollywood writers earned about $1.2 billion in 2000 and are demanding a $99.7 million increase over three years, or an average annual raise of about 3%. The producers have said the demands will raise not only the minimum-wage standards but also boost compensation for the highest-paid writers. That would amount to an unacceptable $227.4 million increase over three years, according to the producers.

Meanwhile, contracts for two unions representing actors expire June 30, raising the possibility of back-to-back walkouts that could delay the fall TV season and curtail production of new movies. The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists plan to meet with producers and studio heads May 10. The actors’ unions, which cover 135,000 performers, have not yet made their contract demands public.

The nonprofit Los Angeles County Development Corp. has said work stoppages would mean losses of about $457 million a week for Hollywood and related businesses in southern California.

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.