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Writers Guild negotiations put on hold for one week as contract deadline looms

Writers Guild negotiations put on hold for one week as contract deadline looms
Supporters and members of the Writers Guild of America protest in Los Angeles in 2007. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

In a sign that contract negotiations have hit another roadblock, talks between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood's major studios and networks have been put on hold for one week.

The groups issued a statement late Monday saying that they have agreed to resume negotiations April 25, just five days before writers have threatened to stage a walkout.

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Neither side elaborated on the reasons for the postponement, but they had been scheduled to resume negotiations Monday after the Easter holiday weekend.

It remains unclear what transpired Monday behind closed doors but the breakdown in talks so close to the deadline indicates that little progress has been made in the negotiations, which began in March.

This marks the second time that negotiations have fallen through. The two sides walked away from the table March 24 after the guild said producers balked at their demands. The producers claimed that the writers walked away first, which the guild has denied.

The WGA is engaged in discussions with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the major studios, networks and independent producers. The two groups have been bickering over issues including compensation and benefits. Citing an erosion of their incomes, writers are seeking increases in basic wages, higher residual payments and greater contributions to their health and pension plans. Studios, however, have balked at the guild's demands.

An online strike authorization vote is set to begin Tuesday and conclude April 24, the day before talks are set to resume. Guild leaders may be banking on a favorable strike authorization vote — which is widely expected — to give them more leverage in negotiations.

The last time the WGA struck was in 2007, with a work stoppage that lasted 100 days and brought much of the Hollywood industry to a halt.

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