Short angered by WGAW tactic

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IATSE international president Thomas Short was positively breathing fire Thursday, not in the direction of management but rather toward his labor kin at the WGA West.

Short's ire was triggered by recently formulated WGAW strike rules, which the guild would enforce if it strikes studios and networks after the Oct. 31 expiration of its current film and TV contract. But the IATSE boss also suggested that the guild is bungling negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

The WGAW and WGA East have been negotiating a new pact with the AMPTP since July 16. Short's rhetorical fuselage comes amid speculation that the WGAW for the first time will try to keep animation writers from working during any strike, even on projects covered under IATSE agreements.

"(IATSE's) Animation Guild has represented animation writers for 55 years," Short said. "I consider it outrageous for the WGAW to consider violating trade union principles by taking action against individuals performing services under the jurisdiction of another union."

WGAW president Patric Verrone sought to deflect Short's criticism in his own brief statement.

"Members of the Writers Guild write the overwhelming majority of animated feature films," Verrone said. "We will not allow the employers to take advantage of our writers to produce this work during a strike. Honoring picket lines is a fundamental trade union principle."

Separately on Thursday, WGA negotiators held their ninth collective bargaining session with the AMPTP. Most of the previous sessions have been contentious, but the latest session is said to have featured exchanges best described as testy compared to more heated previous sessions.

The parties broke at 4 p.m. and agreed to reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

"Both sides continued to review and argue over the meaning of the information presented by each party," AMPTP president Nick Counter said in an end-of-day assessment. "The two sides are fundamentally apart as to what data is truly relevant to the negotiations dealing with productions covered by the WGA agreement and produced by signatory production companies."

Said the guild: "As we move toward our contract expiration on Oct. 31, we look forward to a serious discussion with the companies. There are a number of important issues that must be dealt with, including home video, new media and jurisdiction. So far, the AMPTP has not been serious."

Counter suggested that guild negotiators are taking a familiar detour in the talks.

"Just as in 2004, the guild has raised a number of red herrings and irrelevant financial information," he said. "We believe they should focus on trying to reach an agreement with the production companies represented at the bargaining table."

Meanwhile, IATSE's statement quoted Short as referring to the WGAW as "the house of hate." It also recounted how Short in December had criticized WGAW leaders for refusing to meet with studio negotiators earlier than July.

"President Short has repeatedly criticized (WGAW) leadership for its incompetence and irresponsibility regarding the negotiations," the IATSE release said.

IATSE and WGA brass also tangled last year over organizing efforts at the CW's "America's Next Top Model." The WGA sought unsuccessfully to organize a dozen writer-producers on the reality show who wanted to join the guild, with IATSE also claiming jurisdictional rights in the matter.

Short pledged to take legal steps if necessary to counter any WGA moves on IATSE-covered animation projects.

Under WGAW strike rules posted to the guild's Web site, members are advised that prohibitions against working during any strike apply to "all network primetime animated series covered by a WGA contract (and) contracts for writing services in connection with fully animated theatrical features negotiated or entered into during a strike."

The advisory continues: "Writers are advised to consult with the WGA staff to determine whether animation writing is prohibited before performing any writing services. Members should assume that projects combining live action and animation and live action-based processes such as motion capture are covered by the Strike Rules."
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