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Writers Guild pickets TV studio

September 28, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

In a protest staged by the Writers Guild of America, West, about 150 pickets rallied outside the production studio of the new TV game show "Temptation" Thursday morning to support a walkout by most of the show's writers.

The rally, in front of the Tribune/KTLA Studio gates in Hollywood, was intended to highlight the guild's ongoing efforts to extend union pay and benefits to writers who work in reality television and game shows, an important issue in volatile contract talks between writers and producers.

Four of six writers on "Temptation" walked off the job a month ago, protesting what they said was the company's refusal to negotiate a fair contract with the guild. They also complained of enduring 14-to-18-hour days without overtime pay.

The writers have since been replaced by the show's producers, FremantleMedia North America, the company behind "American Idol" and game shows including "The Price Is Right."

"Fremantle has no excuse for refusing to bargain with us and give these writers the benefits they deserve," guild President Patric Verrone told a crowd.

"Temptation" writer Rosemarie DiSalvo said, "We were forced to work such long hours, I had to be on antibiotics for the last 10 days I worked on the show."

Fremantle executives said the company complied with all labor laws and accused the guild of trumping up the dispute, using the show as a pawn in contentious labor negotiations.

"We're a big moving target," said David Shall, executive vice president and general counsel of FremantleMedia North America. "The guild has never had the intention of sitting down and negotiating this in a forthright manner."

He said the union had not been completely honest with its members, citing two letters from David Young, the guild's executive director, both dated Aug. 27. In one letter, addressed to the show's outside counsel, he urged the parties to "begin negotiations as soon as possible." In the other letter, Young directed "Temptation" writers to "cease and desist" their work on the show, saying, "Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach agreement."

A guild spokesman said the union reached that conclusion because earlier attempts to jump-start negotiations had been rebuffed, a claim Fremantle disputed.

"Temptation," in which contestants earn cash by answering questions about pop culture, is distributed by 20th Television, a division of Fox Entertainment Group. Fox declined to comment.

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