1/12/08

Industry lacks appreciation for striking writers

It may be Black Friday next week for Warner Bros. Studio employees in Burbank who received 60-day layoff notices to its employees on Nov. 12 last year. Though production has been ceased or interrupted in most all Hollywood endeavors, this would mark the largest job cut and signal the start of other mass layoffs.

Writers Strike conspiracy theorists say the layoffs and production company contract cancellations by force majeure clauses are being used by studios to trim fat and get rid of unproductive deals.

Others see it as a sad signal the WGA strike is expected to run several more months until the Screen Actors Guild contract are up and the growing price tag forces studios back to the table on issues like Internet pay.

A Warner insider said no decisions were made yet as to who or how many, though they did allude to production personnel, not just maintenance crews. The gist was that an axe will fall, but staffers should not panic, they may not be included.

Officially, WB had this to say: “These WARN notices were sent because, in certain circumstances, federal and California law can require employers to give notice of staffing changes. Due to the ongoing WGA work stoppage, some studio divisions will have to lay off employees. We regret the impact this will have on our employees, and we hope to bring them back to work once the WGA strike ends.”

The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) strike passed the 60-day mark as reached its 65th day on Tuesday, which means major layoffs are expected to occur throughout Hollywood during the oncoming weeks.

The Warner Bros. action “represents the first concrete sign that the strike could trigger massive job cuts across Hollywood,” according to author and celebrity publicist, Michael Levine.

“Having worked with Hollywood stars for 25 years, I remember clearly that in the 1988 WGA strike, almost every studio eventually laid off scores of workers as the five-month work stoppage dragged on,” Levine continued.

“We regret the impact this will have on our employees, and we hope to bring them back to work once the WGA strike ends,” said Warner Bros. spokesperson Stacey Hoppe.

Other studios across the country have already begun job and budget-cuts. Fox, for instance has nixed paying overtime for several positions. NBC network took a hard hit after being forced to cancel the annual Golden Globes scheduled for this weekend.

“Sure the NBC network is suffering,” said Levine, “but the really big loser is the Los Angeles economy, which is bracing to take a $75-100 million bath.”

Levine suggests that ceremony’s cancellation will lead to a negative domino effect on already scheduled pre- and post-Golden Globe events.

“As of last night, all the major studios and celebrity magazines had put the kibosh on their star-studded after-party bashes at the Beverly Hilton — including HBO, Warner Bros./In Touch, Paramount/DreamWorks, NBC/Universal and the Weinstein Company,” said Levine.

The studio may cut jobs as soon as Jan. 18, JoAnn Black, senior vice president of human resources, said in a Jan. 3 letter to employees. WB spokesman Scott Rowe said the 1,000 notices went mainly to maintenance workers.

The Warner Bros. workers would join about 10,000 industry employees who have been idled by the walkout that has cost the local economy about $1.4 billion, said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

The economic impact spread to other professions. Writers have lost about $179.6 million in pay and other unionized workers, including stage hands, about $309.6 million, according to Kyser’s firm. The total impact on the region is $1.4 billion, the private company said Jan. 7.

(hollywoodtoday.net)

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