Up to 1,000 employees on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank could be laid off anytime after Friday as a result of the Hollywood writers strike.
The studio distributed legally mandated warning notices on Nov. 12, five days after the Writers Guild of America walkout began, stating that recipients could be subject to layoff after 60 days. The notices represent the first concrete sign that the strike could trigger massive job cuts across Hollywood.
A Warner Bros. spokeswoman declined to say when or how many pink slips might eventually fly. She said the notices were mandated under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications regulations, which are designed to give employees some advance notice of possible job eliminations in the event of a strike.
“These WARN notices were sent because, in certain circumstances, federal and California law can require employers to give notice of staffing changes,” Warner Bros. 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.
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 letters shortly to terminate deals with select writer-producers. And on the film side, Universal recently parted ways with Vertigo Entertainment, the company behind the ”Ring” and “Grudge” horror movies, upon the expiration of their production pact.
In the 1988 WGA strike, almost every studio eventually laid off scores of workers during the five-month work stoppage.