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Talks Seek to Avert Directors Strike

July 14, 1987|MICHAEL CIEPLY and DIANE HAITHMAN | Times Staff Writers

Negotiators worked late into the night Monday in a last-moment effort to avert this morning's scheduled strike by directors against two big movie studios and a TV network--an action that producers warned would mean a lockout by other industry giants.

If the job action by the 8,500 members of the Directors Guild of America against Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros. and NBC begins as scheduled at 6 a.m., officials say, about 200 other movie and TV companies would simultaneously begin a lockout of guild members.

"At this point it does not look hopeful," Nicholas Counter III, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said before talks resumed Monday night.

Counter said the negotiators "closed the gap somewhat" since the guild's three-year contract expired June 30 but that they remained far apart on several issues.

Guild President Gilbert Cates advised guild members working for companies not targeted for the strike to report for work today, despite the threatened lockout.

"You go to work," he said at an afternoon press conference, "until they come to lock you out."

At the press conference, held at the guild's Sunset Boulevard headquarters, representatives of virtually all Hollywood unions expressed strong support for the directors.

Earl Bush, secretary-treasurer of the Studio Transportation Drivers Local 399, International Conference of Teamsters, pledged that his union would "support this strike 100%."

"No Teamster--knowing Teamsters as I do today--will cross the picket line," he said.

Teamsters and other unions involved in film and television production have no-strike contracts, but a union member may decide not to cross a picket line as a matter of individual conscience.

Counter said that if the Teamsters are advising members not to cross picket lines, "we will take appropriate action." He did not specify what action.

Representatives of the Screen Actors Guild and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, two of Hollywood's largest unions, also declared support for the directors.

The late-night negotiations with production companies were conducted at the alliance's Sherman Oaks headquarters. Talks on a contract covering network staff directors were held only with representatives of NBC in New York on Monday. No agreement had been reached there either. An alliance spokeswoman said network staff talks were also held in Los Angeles.

CBS Broadcast Group President Gene F. Jankowski notified his network's guild members that they would be locked out if a strike were called against NBC. An ABC spokesman said Sunday that his network would lock out the directors it employs under the production contract but had not decided whether to lock out staff directors, who work primarily on news and sports programs.

Details of Dispute

Details of the contractural dispute between directors and the movie and TV companies have come into much sharper focus in recent days. Among other things:

- The producers have offered the guild pay increases totaling about 8% over three years. Guild representatives want increases totaling about 12% and have called the 8% offer a "reduction" of minimums because it does not meet expected increases in the cost of living.

(Under the current minimums, for example, a director of a one-hour TV episode is guaranteed $17,935 for 15 days of shooting and preparation time.)

- For network TV programs later sold as reruns, producers want to abolish the residuals system under which directors receive fixed-dollar compensation for nationwide sale of the show, even though the show is rerun only in a single area.

Producers want to pay the residuals as a percentage of the money they actually receive. The guild agrees with the concept but disagrees on amounts.

- Producers want to establish a "window" that would let them receive a certain amount of revenue from movies sold to pay-per-view TV systems before they begin paying the directors' 1.2% residuals on such showings. Again, directors agree with the concept but not the amount.

A lockout at the non-struck studios could lead quickly to picket lines all over town if guild members seek to take advantage of support by the Teamsters and other unions.

Counter predicted that a strike-lockout would have little immediate effect on the movie and television industry because not many shows are in production and many fall season television programs already have been produced.

"We're all set through Christmas," he said.

And although studios were making plans to go ahead with production using non-guild directors, a Universal Television series producer said he did not see how that could happen. He said it would take several days to train new directors and assistants who--in some cases, at least--have been lined up to fill the jobs of guild directors.

"The crush could come on day one," the producer said.

He suggested that some workers could intentionally slow production out of sympathy for the directors.

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