U cleans out inhouse by 115 jobs

Universal Studios, responding to producer requests for more authority in the staffing of specific pics, announced Wednesday that it was slashing its inhouse production staff by 115 full-time jobs in its Operations Group.

Departments affected by the reductions include clerical, administrative, accounting, facility engineering, sign, paint and staff shop, negative-cutting and sound engineers.

A U spokeswoman said the positions would now be chosen and filled by producers on individual films. “They want to be able to hire their own production crews,” the spokeswoman said. “These functions now become the hires of the production companies.”

The reorganization will involve the elimination of 115 regular, full-time production services positions, which represents a staff reduction of 10%. Additionally, 37 jobs have been retained in production services or transferred to facility services.

In the new structure, the Operations Group will be organized in two areas:

Facility Services, encompassing the physical maintenance and management of the facility.

Production Services, which comprises the departments supporting production on the lot.

“In an effort to better serve our productions and manage our facilities, we are responding to our customers, the on-lot and independent motion picture and TV producers who use our services and who have told us our needs,” said Jim Watters, prexy of the Operations Group. “As a result, we have made some difficult decisions, including the reduction of positions.”

A source said between 80% and 85% of those losing their posts are union members who will be eligible to be rehired by the union rosters.

Employees whose positions are being eliminated will receive severance packages based on amount of time in U’s employ.

The staffing decisions were made after U execs consulted with producers both on and off the lot.

“This reorganization represents a true partnership with production and provides our customers with increased efficiency,” Watters said.

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