Writers Could Return by Wednesday


The hastily called press event followed morning votes to recommend the tentative agreement by the negotiating committee, the WGAW board and the WGAE council.

As for the multistage process to end the strike and approve the contract, Verrone said, "We felt it was important to the members who had been out there on the picket lines that they are part of the decision to lift the restraining order."

WGAW and WGAE members attending information meetings Saturday at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium and Manhattan's Crowne Plaza seemed overwhelmingly in favor of accepting the tentative agreement.

The latest developments cap seven months of WGA negotiations that contrasted sharply with those of the DGA, both in timing and tone.

The directors negotiated informally for a period of weeks, then hammered out a collective bargaining agreement in six days. DGA brass boasted about the likelihood of being rewarded for launching early talks on their new contract; WGA leaders acknowledged they were counting on a strategy of negotiating brinksmanship.

Negotiation insiders suggest there were three different phases of the negotiations with respect to who served as the WGA's key point person in the talks.

In the earliest phase, for at least three months after talks got under way July 16, WGAW exec director David Young dominated WGA presentations at the bargaining table. After the strike started Nov. 5, Verrone became an equal partner to Young in formal and informal discussions with studio reps. And in just the final two weeks of negotiations, WGA negotiating chair John Bowman assumed a much more assertive role, speaking with the most authority on issues key to the final deal terms.

Similarly, on the studio side, AMPTP president Nick Counter was the chief negotiator throughout all of the formal negotiations -- until such media bosses as Disney's Robert Iger, News Corp.'s Peter Chernin and CBS Corp.'s Leslie Moonves assumed the lead in the informal stage of talks that ran through mid- to late January. And for the past two weeks, AMPTP exec vp Carol Lombardini was most hands-on in representing management as final deal terms were drafted.

In announcing terms of their tentative deal early Saturday morning, the presidents of the WGAW and WGAE said they believed they had achieved significant gains in the pact. The guilds jointly have about 12,000 members, with about 10,500 of them affected by the pact, including almost 8,000 WGAW members.