Guild's operating deficit more than $2 million

The Writers Guild of America West has notified its staff that it will cut at least 10% of its 185 employees as a result of an operating deficit of more than $2 million.

The WGA West had no comment Monday evening about the job cuts, expected to be announced in coming weeks.

Staff reps were informed last week about the layoffs, which have been blamed on the nation’s financial crisis lowering the value of the WGA West’s investment portfolio along with a decline in dues-generating work for members, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The WGA West disclosed to members last summer in its annual report that its expenditures jumped 11% to $26.3 million due to the costs of negotiations and the 100-day strike, leading to an operating deficit of $800,000 for the fiscal year ended March 31 (Daily Variety, July 7). The membership and finance committee noted in the report that the deficit led to a decline in net assets to $31.5 million but declared the WGA West “remains in excellent financial condition.”

The guild also noted in that report that feature work jumped nearly 16% to $502.5 million as studios stockpiled, but TV earnings were hit by the strike, sliding 6.8% to $437.3 million. And it pointed out that the strong earnings in 2007 could be “borrowing from the future” since much of the increased work appeared to be related to accelerated employment prior to the strike.

The WGA West has increased its expenditures in recent years to beef up its organizing efforts in reality and animation but has registered negligible gains in those arenas.

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