Warners preps pink slips

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Up to 1,000 employees on the Warner Bros. lot theoretically could be laid off anytime after Friday under federally mandated notices the studio recently distributed.

The notices, or so-called WARN mailings, represent the first concrete sign that the WGA strike could trigger massive layoffs in Hollywood.

A WB studio spokeswoman declined to say how many workers might be laid off or when actual pink slips would fly, but she stressed the notices were mandated under the U.S. Department of Labor's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications regulations.

The WARN notices are mandated in strike situations, to give employees some advance notice of possible job eliminations.

"These WARN notices were sent because, in certain circumstances, federal and California law can require employers to give notice of staffing changes," Warners spokeswoman Stacey Hoppe said. "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."

Those receiving WARN notices are employees of Warner Bros. Studios Facilities, primarily production workers and others involved in lot maintenance and facility management.

The Warners notices were actually sent Nov. 12, stating that those receiving the WARN mailings could be subject to layoff 60 days after posting of the notifications.

News of the development circulated Tuesday, the 65th day of the writers strike. It wasn't immediately clear if any other major studios have issued similar notifications.

But there already have been widespread cost-cutting moves on most studio lots.

At Fox and elsewhere, overtime pay has been curtailed for many positions, and industryites coast to coast have been finding their department budgets scrutinized more thoroughly than usual.

Elsewhere, TV production companies have shed workers as show after show has run out of scripts and shut down operations, and now film producers with overall deals on the various lots are coming under similar scrutiny.

Some TV studios, including Warner Bros. TV, are expected to send out force majeure letters shortly to terminate overall deals with select writer-producers. And on the film side, Vertigo Entertainment and Universal recently parted ways upon expiration of their production pact.

In the 1988 WGA strike, almost every studio eventually laid off scores of workers as the five-month work stoppage dragged on.

Nellie Andreeva and Borys Kit contributed to this report.
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