Guild argues 'Arrest' scribes have no union contracts

The Writers Guild of America has kept up the heat in its battle with Studios USA by complaining about the producer‘s refusal to grant a union contract for writers of the reality series “Arrest & Trial.”

“We wonder why management continues to deny the writers of ‘Arrest & Trial’ the respect they deserve and the right to work under their guild’s contract,” the WGA said in a recent post on its Web site.

The WGA noted that the production company, Studios USA First Run Prods., has agreed to union contracts for “Arrest & Trial” with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, the Directors Guild of America and the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

No jurisdiction

A Studios USA spokesman said the WGA should not have jurisdiction over the show because the Guild has no contracts for other first-run syndicated shows. Earlier this year, the producer refused to give voluntary recognition to the WGA as a bargaining agent and told the Guild it would have to go through an election to establish jurisdiction.

The WGA then filed a petition with the Natl. Labor Relations Board for an election. But the petition was withdrawn after Studios USA told the NLRB it was uncertain whether “Arrest & Trial” would be renewed for a second season.

The WGA’s announcement about “Arrest & Trial” comes a month after the WGA filed unfair labor practice charges against Studios USA, NBC, Universal City Studios and NBC over their alleged failure to turn over information about possible stockpiling in anticipation of a strike this spring. At the time, Wolf noted he was a 20-year member of the WGA and accused the Guild of retaliating for his criticism of WGA leaders over their threats to strike on creative rights issues.

WGA investigating

The WGA also said in the past that it was continuing to investigate the relationship between First Run Prods. and other Studios USA companies which employ writers for “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” under WGA contracts. It noted that the showrunners for “Arrest & Trial” and both “Law & Order” series report to Wolf.

The WGA has signed first-time deals with two other reality shows, “Who Wants to be Millionaire” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway” and granted them exemptions from a possible strike this year by setting the contract expirations to match the end of the contract under negotiation.

“Arrest & Trial” may end with the conclusion of the 2000-01 TV season. Chris-Craft stations in the nation’s top two markets — WWOR in New York and KCOP in Los Angeles — have been planning to downgrade the show from its prime access 7:30 p.m. time periods to latenight (Daily Variety, March 7).

The WGA’s negotiations with studios collapsed on March 1, and Guild leaders have said they plan to return to the bargaining table next month. The current film-TV contract expires May 2.

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