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Writers Guild Decides to Not Negotiate Early


The union representing Hollywood writers, for now, has dropped efforts to try to get an early start on negotiating a new contract with producers. It was a tactic some guild officials believed would defuse growing tensions about a possible crippling strike next year.

Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have recommended to its board to proceed with traditional negotiations. That means talks will not start until sometime next spring. The contract between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires May 1.

Still, guild leaders left the door open to the possibility of early negotiations if studios show they are willing to make significant economic concessions.

As previously reported, there had been an effort to jump-start negotiations as early as next month.

Worries about a potential writers strike next year, along with a potential actors strike in June against TV networks and studios, is consuming Hollywood producers. Because of the long lead time required for projects, they already are reshuffling schedules and stockpiling scripts.

In informal meetings, guild leaders were recently urged by three top studio executives--DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg, Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer and Viacom Entertainment Group Chairman Jonathan Dolgen--to consider starting negotiations early.

Since 1988, writers and producers have negotiated new contracts well in advance. Supporters of that style of negotiating believe that writers get a better deal from producers when the companies aren't facing an immediate strike.

But growing unhappiness by writers who felt the arrangement was too cozy with studios led to the ouster in 1998 of Brian Walton, the guild's former executive director, setting the stage for more confrontational negotiations for the upcoming contracts.

Writers last struck in 1988. That 150-day walkout remains the longest strike in Hollywood history.

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