Striking Film, TV Writers Vote on New 3-Year Contract

March 12, 1985|JAY SHARBUTT | Times Staff Writer

With their leaders recommending approval of a proposed three-year contract, striking film and television writers in New York and Los Angeles voted Monday on whether to end to their six-day-old walkout and start thinking today of scripts, not picket lines.

An estimated 1,800 West Coast Guild members, their scheduled 8 p.m. meeting starting a half hour late, crowded into the Hollywood Palladium to hear details of the new contract and to cast ballots at a closed meeting.

Only 182 East Coast members showed up at a similar meeting in New York.

A total of 7,100 members of the Writers Guild of America were eligible to vote, 2,000 of them in New York, the rest in Los Angeles. No major opposition to the contract was expected, guild spokesman Mickey Freeman said earlier Monday.

"We think it's going to sail through," he said.

However, those attending the Hollywood meeting described debate on the new contract as "heated," and one of the guild members opposing the contract, Stanley Ralph Ross, later told reporters he thought the proposed pact was "a lousy deal."

Debate over the proposed contract was still going on late Monday night, and Freeman said it might be several hours before the final results of the balloting would be announced. Outcome of the New York voting was withheld until the West Coast writers had a chance to cast their ballots.

In anticipation of a favorable vote, NBC, which had several programs affected by the strike, said Monday it was planning to resume production of its top-rated "The Cosby Show" and another comedy series, "Sara." Each had to shut down early because of the walkout.

An NBC spokesman said that with approval of the new contract, the Cosby series, which last week stopped production of the last three episodes for this season, would be able to tape two of the episodes--one a pilot for a spinoff series starring Tony Orlando.

"Sara," which stopped production with five episodes to go, would be able to produce all the episodes and complete its 13-show season, the spokesman added.

"The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," which reruns highlights of the program on Monday nights, would resume its four-night schedule of first-run programs tonight, the spokesman said. NBC's "Late Night Starring David Letterman," which took a scheduled vacation last week, also would resume its regular tapings tonight.

The proposed agreement between the guild and the Alliance of Motion and Television Producers was reached early Friday, after a 16-hour negotiating session in the presence of federal mediator Leonard Farrell, who helped bring the opposing sides together.

Before he asked them to meet with him, there had been no negotiations since Feb. 28, when the guild's former contract expired. The guild's last strike, in 1981, lasted 13 weeks and delayed the start of the major television networks' fall season by several weeks.

There has been no picketing during this walkout. Before Friday's tentative settlement, guild members had planned to start picketing today at CBS' Television City in West Los Angeles.

A major issue in the negotiations was the sharing of revenues from the billion-dollar market for recorded videocassettes of film and television programs.

Although neither the guild nor the alliance would discuss details of their proposed contract before it was presented to guild members, sources close to the talks say the videocassette issue was resolved with an agreement essentially the same as one worked out last July between the alliance and the Directors Guild of America.

In that contract, the Directors Guild got 1.5% of the first $1 million of the producers' gross from videocassette sales and 1.8% after that.

The Writers Guild had sought 1.2% of distributors' profits on videocassette sales. Sources said the guild agreed to drop both that and arbitration of the videocassette issue for the years 1983 to early 1985, after the alliance, among other things, agreed to put $1 million in the guild's supplemental health plan for free-lance television writers.

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