Labor talks: More civil, less war

Cooperative tone marks fourth day of negotiations

Negotiators finally got some work done down at WGA headquarters, where a fourth day of film and TV contract talks went much more smoothly than the previous sessions.

The first three sessions — stretching back to July 16 and featuring long gaps without any scheduled talks — were marked by bitter exchanges and little horse-trading.

But on Thursday, negotiators emerged at the end of their daylong efforts to issue a joint statement telling that the session had ended for the day — a cooperative gesture that in itself suggested an atmosphere of increased civility.

"Scheduling for the next session will be done in the next day or so," the statement noted.

No session is scheduled for today because of the Yom Kippur religious holiday, and no talks are expected next week because of scheduling conflicts. Parties likely will resume their negotiations sometime during the Oct. 1 work week, with the current WGA-AMPTP contract set to expire Oct. 31.

Spokespersons for both sides declined to elaborate on their brief statement, and details of the matters discussed were unavailable. But negotiation insiders noted the tone of the day's session had been much more business-like.

Issues include pay for film, TV and new-media content, benefit issues and work rules.

Labor and management negotiating teams caucused separately Thursday morning, then broke for lunch before launching an afternoon negotiating session at 1:30 p.m. that lasted until 4 p.m.

WGA West president Patric Verrone also was scheduled to ask the FCC to consider adopting a rule requiring networks to disclose to viewers when advertisers pay to insert branded advertising or other forms of product integration into TV shows. The FCC held the latest of its regional hearings on media ownership in Chicago, and Verrone was among those planning to testify at an evening session.