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WGA West holds fire until summer mediation

Guild agrees to WGA East's mediation request

The Writers Guild of America branch battle will carry into the summer.

Latest twist in the fight, spurred by a bitter dispute over finances, came Monday night at the WGA West board meeting, with that panel agreeing to the WGA East’s request for mediation on July 20 or 25.

The WGA West, which has claimed the East branch is cheating it out of $1 million annually, had been reluctant to waive the April 10 deadline for starting mediation. But the board agreed to do so Monday on the condition that the WGA East agree to two conditions — a neutral arbitrator who would be tapped should mediation fail; and that arbitration start within 30 days once either side asks for it after mediation.

The WGA East has until next Monday to respond. Given the differences of positions and heated language used in the dispute, it’s far from certain that mediation can bring about a settlement.

The WGA East has contended it could not meet the April 10 deadline because it’s involved in conducting a rerun of its council election and negotiations with CBS and ABC. It has also disputed the WGA West’s calculations of what it’s owed and accused the WGA West of union-busting.

WGA West prexy Daniel Petrie Jr., in a letter sent Tuesday to members, said: “We’re not fighting with the WGA East. All we are trying to do is honor and get them to honor provisions that are in both our constitutions. Why? Because doing that would provide resources that would help us maintain and improve services we provide to members of both guilds.

“We understand that our sister union does not believe these constitutional provisions need to be honored. How do we propose to resolve that difference of opinion? Through mediation and failing that, arbitration — both of which are, by definition, alternatives to fighting.”

The dispute began in early February when the WGA West board announced it would seek mediation, triggering a 60-day deadline for starting that process.

The WGA West, based in Hollywood, has about 8,000 members and an annual budget of about $20 million. The WGA East, based in New York, has about 4,000 members and a $6 million budget.

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