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Studio warning of possible job losses

Warner Bros. sends notices to employees saying they could lose their jobs because of the writers guild strike.

January 12, 2008|By Jeremy Oberstein

BURBANK — Warner Bros. Entertainment sent letters to about 1,000 of its studio facility division employees warning them of possible layoffs as a result of the writers strike.

Employees in the studio facility division are responsible for the technical side of media production, filling the engineering, janitorial and construction roles the company requires, officials at Warner Bros. said.

Though they are not members of the writers union, the lack of television programs has stymied possible jobs.

The notices were sent five days after the start of the strike on Nov. 12, as is required by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications regulations, which are designed to give employees at least 60 days advance notice of possible job eliminations, officials at Warner Bros. said.


A spokeswoman for Warner Bros. declined to say when people might be laid off, but the 60-day notice expired Friday — meaning firings could be imminent.

“Due to the ongoing [Writers Guild of America] work stoppage, some studio divisions will have to lay off employees.” Warner Bros. spokeswoman Stacy Hoppe said in a statement. “We regret the impact this will have on our employees, and we hope to bring them back to work once the strike ends.”

The notices are required by law, said Katherine Stone, a labor law professor at UCLA School of Law.

“It’s possible that no one could lose their job,” she said. “When a layoff is anticipated, [notices] have to be used.”

Warner Bros. was forced to send the notices because about 1,000 people were involved, she said.

“Notices of intent have to be issued when at least 500 employees are involved,” Stone said, adding that the 60-day time period was inserted as a provision by Congress to protect employees who might need time to find another job.

The possible layoffs at Burbank’s second-largest employer is a sign that the strike could have a devastating effect on the city, said Gary Olson, president of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.

“One of our biggest concerns is the potential for more layoffs,” Olson said. “But these are things the studios have to do. It’s obvious they have to look at belt-tightening measures.”

News of the possible layoffs prompted at least one other Burbank media company to say it has no intention of following suit.

Nate Kirtman, vice president of publicity for NBC/Universal, said his studio does not have any plans to notify its workers of layoffs.

Representatives from the Walt Disney Co. could not be reached for comment.

In a related development, the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers agreed to enter into formal contract negotiations, starting today. The directors are trying to head off a strike before their contract expires on June 30.

 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers City Hall and public safety. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@

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