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Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 08:06 GMT 09:06 UK
Hollywood writers resume strike talks
Strike action could cost Los Angeles 311m a week
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and major film and TV producers are to resume contract talks just a fortnight before threatened strike action by the guild is due to start.

The last talks between the two groups collapsed at the start of March as they failed to reach agreement on the crucial issue of financial payments for writers for TV programmes and films shown as repeats and issued on video and DVD.

Reality TV programmes could fill the void left by a strike
Representatives from the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) will meet on 17 April to try and thrash out a last-minute deal.

The union's 11,500 members are due to go on strike when their current contract expires on 1 May.

A second strike involving 135,000 actors could take place two months later if a separate dispute between the Screen Actors' Guild and the producers is not resolved.

'Far apart'

If the strikes do go ahead, economists have forecast that they could cost Los Angeles, the capital of America's film industry, more than $450m (311m) a week in lost business.

Any strike would devastate thousands of innocent victims who are not represented at the bargaining table

Richard Riordan, Los Angeles mayor

A spokesman for the producers said the two sides remained "extremely far apart on financial issues".

Producers have said their latest offer would provide the writers almost $116m (80m) extra over three years, claiming the union's proposal would cost the industry more than $227m (157m).

But union officials have said they are seeking just under $100m (69m) over three years and say the producers' offer would result in an overall decrease in payments of $2.7m (1.8m).

WGA spokeswoman Cheryl Rhoden said the guild and studios have held "informal conversations" since talks ended in March, but "no one should assume those are going to quickly lead to an agreement".

Stockpiling scripts

In an effort to reduce the impact of any strike action producers have been stockpiling scripts and pressing ahead with production on as many movies as possible.

Reality TV programmes, such as Survivor and Big Brother, could fill the void left by any strike action.

"If it [the WGA agreement] is not resolved by 16 May, we have to announce the schedule that we know we can provide and that we know our [advertising] guys can sell," Leslie Moonves, president and chief executive of CBS television, is quoted as saying on the AMPTP website.

Film-makers say they have enough films in the pipeline to keep cinemas supplied with new movies until the first few months of 2002.

Local economy

Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan has commissioned two private agencies to study what a TV and movie strike would mean for the local economy.

"Any strike would devastate thousands of innocent victims who are not represented at the bargaining table," Mr Riordan has said, adding the city would face shortfalls in local tax collections, affecting basic services like police and refuse collection.

The last strike by the guild, in 1988, lasted five months and delayed the start of the autumn TV season.

Along with higher payments for repeats, the writers want a larger hand in the creative process, including more access to film sets and greater involvement in film-making overall.

See also:

30 Mar 01 | Newsnight
Hollywood strike transcript - 26/3/01
06 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Hollywood strike could hit UK
02 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Hollywood strike talks collapse
08 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Fox reveals Hollywood strike plan
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