LOS ANGELES — Facing mounting pressure to limit the economic havoc on the entertainment industry, negotiators for writers and major studios met recently for their first serious talks in three weeks.
The hard-line positions taken by both parties have given way in recent days to the realization that they need to move quickly if they are to salvage the current and upcoming TV seasons.
The strike has caused more disruption than studios had anticipated, shutting down dozens of shows and throwing thousands of people out of work, including chauffeurs. The limousine industry that services most of the entertainment market in Los Angeles has been feeling the loss as well.
The eight-hour session began at 10 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m. before the sides broke off and agreed to resume talks the next day. It was the first of three meetings to which the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers had previously committed. The sessions could be crucial in determining whether the parties can get a new three-year contract by year's end, people close to the negotiations said.
Some industry insiders are skeptical that a deal is imminent because the parties have been far apart on such key issues as how much writers are paid when their work is sold or re-used on the Internet, cell phones, digital video players, and other new-media devices.
Nonetheless, there were some encouraging signs that the sides were at least serious about trying to negotiate a new contract.
For one thing, they agreed to a press blackout, with each side giving its members strict instructions not to talk to the media. That's in stark contrast to previous bargaining sessions that often culminated in each party issuing vitriolic news releases at the end of the day.
In another positive sign, most of the members of the Writers Guild's negotiating committee attended Monday's session, along with more than a dozen labor relations executives from the major studios. The last time they met — on Nov. 4 — only a handful of top guild leaders were present, including President Patric M. Verrone, chief negotiator David Young and negotiating committee Chairman John F. Bowman.
Still, observers say it could take several days, if not weeks, for the two sides to reach an agreement. As in many negotiations, both sides may have to come down from their initial positions, though neither side tipped its hand as to how much it might compromise on those issues. For all their differences, both camps appear highly motivated to get a deal done.
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times