Producers and Writers to Talk With Mediator
With charges still flying from both sides, the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers agreed Thursday to sit down with a federal mediator on Monday--the first such meeting since an abortive 20-minute session on April 8.
In a terse statement issued Thursday in the 11-week-old strike, representatives of the 9,000 writers and the major studios, independent producers and networks announced:
“The federal mediator has called a meeting between the WGA and the AMPTP on Monday at 2 p.m. The two parties have agreed to attend. The chief negotiators have been exploring possible solutions to the impasse and feel that a meeting at this time is in order.”
Sources from both camps were cautiously optimistic about the meeting, to be overseen by Commissioner Leonard Farrell of the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The session is scheduled to be held at alliance headquarters in Sherman Oaks.
Feelings for Settlement
“There’s a desire on both sides to bring this thing to a settlement so the town can go back to work,” alliance spokesman Herb Steinberg told The Times.
About 1,800 non-guild members have been laid off, but the effects of the strike have spread beyond the nucleus of 20,000 people who work directly for producers, Steinberg said. As many as 200,000 workers employed by businesses that indirectly depend upon the film and television business, including caterers, craftsmen and drivers, have also been affected, he said.
The three issues that initiated the strike on March 7 remain the same: creative control, foreign residuals and the formula for fixing syndication residuals on one-hour television dramas. At the April 8 mediation meeting, neither side would move from its position, abruptly ending negotiations before they began.
In the last three weeks, the guild has adopted an aggressive strategy including picketing, rallies and other strike events. It has published ads in trade newspapers designed to show the solidarity of members. In addition, the guild has been negotiating new contracts with as many as 150 independent production companies, separate from the producers alliance.
A guild general membership meeting has been tentatively scheduled for Wednesday at the Hollywood Palladium to consider the approval of the first two dozen such contracts if the 19-member guild board and the guild executive council recommend them to the members.
“It is not a coincidence that efforts have been made to hold the Monday meeting at the same time that negotiations for independent agreements are reaching a point of agreement,” said a source close to those negotiations.
Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America escalated its offensive Wednesday by sending a letter to 13 production companies that guild leaders have accused of hiring non-union or “scab” writers.
Citing federal labor law that gives the union the right to such information, guild executive director Brian Walton demanded the names and addresses of the 13 companies’ writers within five working days. The letter threatened that the guild would file an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board if the names and addresses were not forthcoming.
Speaking on behalf of the accused companies, Steinberg of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers refused comment on the guild’s “scab” charges.
Among the network and currently syndicated TV programs that the Writers Guild of America contends are being written with non-union writers are:
“The Wil Shriner Show” (W.F. Productions); “Days of Our Lives” (Corday Productions); “MacGyver,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Webster” and “Naked Gun” (Paramount TV); “The Late Show” (Fox Square Productions); “Santa Barbara” (Santa Barbara Productions); “Supercarrier” (Charles Fries Productions); “Buck James” (Tri-Star Pictures); “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless” (Bell-Phillip Television Productions Co.)
Several other soap operas, pilots and cable programs were also cited by the guild as being scripted by non-guild writers.