WGA negotiations on hold

Scribe talks may not resume till Sept.

There’s no rush back to the bargaining table for the Writers Guild and showbiz companies, with talks not expected to resume for several more weeks.

Plans for a restart of contract negotiations between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers had not come together Wednesday — two weeks after the first round of negotiations broke off following two acrimonious sessions. The WGA contract expires Oct. 31.

Since then, the AMPTP’s been focused on making a deal with Teamster drivers and four craft unions. The two sides reached a three-year tentative agreement Wednesday, a few hours after the expiration of the Basic Crafts contract.

In a statement, AMPTP president Nick Counter praised his opponents, saying, “The Teamsters and other Basic Crafts should be commended for their professional and responsible approach to negotiations, allowing us to reach a fair deal that assures production will continue under their agreements.”

Counter’s tone contrasted sharply with his recent broadsides against the WGA. Two weeks ago, he called the guild “short-sighted and self-destructive” after the WGA spurned the AMPTP’s proposal for a compensation study, which was subsequently taken off the table.

For its part, the WGA has attempted to portray the companies as duplicitous — eager to tout their success on Wall Street and crying poverty at the bargaining table amid uncertainty over the dizzying array of digital platforms.

Reps for the AMPTP and WGA would say Wednesday only that they’re starting to discuss details for relaunching bargaining. But according to several insiders, talks may not start again until September due to the logistics of arranging for more than 30 negotiating team members to attend, plus the hostility of the first round.

WGA reps attended the final negotiations for the Basic Crafts deal, with WGA West assistant exec director Jeff Hermanson asserting that he emerged with a sense of optimism. “It gave me hope that reasonable people can agree on our fair and reasonable proposals,” he added.

Terms of the Basic Crafts deal were not disclosed. The pact — which will run through July 31, 2010 — must be ratified by union members in order to go into effect.

The Basic Crafts contract covers Teamsters Local 399 and the four other Basic Crafts unions — Local 40 of the Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 724 of the Studio Utility Employees, Local 755 of Plasterers and Cement Masons and Local 78 of Journeymen & Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipe Fitting Industry.

Teamster drivers are the largest component of the locals repped at the negotiations, with about 4,000 members, while the Studio Utility Employees number more than 1,000.

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