Los Angeles Times
Posted with permission from Tribune Content Agency

LOS ANGELES — The Writers Guild of America and the major studios appeared Sunday to be moving closer toward a deal that would avert a strike, with the studios appearing to increase their offers on several contentious issues, including the writers' health fund.

But no deal has been announced so far and a strike could still happen if both sides fail to reach an agreement by midnight Monday, when the writers' current contract expires. A strike would affect nearly 13,000 film and TV writers and would cause widespread disruption in Hollywood.

The WGA is negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the bargaining organization that represents the major studios and networks.

The parties made significant progress over the weekend in addressing some of the major sticking points that prompted the WGA to seek a strike authorization vote from members last week. The vote was overwhelmingly approved by 96 percent of members who voted.

On Sunday, the AMPTP bumped up its offer to the WGA's health plan, making a "substantial increase" to the $60 million offered in the alliance's previous proposal, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to comment on the talks.

The guild's health plan is widely viewed as one of the most generous in the industry. But it faces financial shortfalls, with the guild projecting mounting deficits in the years ahead.

The AMPTP has also increased its offers on issues including the length of TV seasons and writer exclusivity. The shrinking TV season, accelerated by the move toward streaming, has reduced earnings for writers and has been a major concern for the union.

Writers are also constrained by exclusivity clauses, which prevent many of them from working on more than one show per season.

Both the WGA and the AMPTP have imposed a media blackout and weren't able to comment.

Underscoring the high stakes involved, top executives from the major Hollywood studios on Sunday took part in a conference call concerning the state of negotiations, according to another person familiar with the negotiations.

Although it remains unclear if the studio chiefs are intervening in the talks, they are believed to be concerned about the progress of discussions this close to the deadline.

Negotiations for the new contract began in March and have broken off twice.

But the down-to-the-wire negotiations over the weekend and the fact that the sides are expected to resume talks Monday suggested they could be closing in on a deal to craft a new three-year contract.