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Hollywood writers strike over after five months

Writers still have to vote to ratify the contract, but lifting the strike will allow them to work.

Writers still have to vote to ratify the contract, but lifting the strike will allow them to work. Photo: Getty

Leaders of Hollywood’s writers union have declared their nearly five-month-old strike after board members approved a contract agreement with studios.

The governing boards of the eastern and western branches of the Writers Guild of America both voted on Tuesday to accept the deal, and afterward declared that the strike would be over and writers would be free to work starting at 12.01am Wednesday.

The writers still have to vote to ratify the contract themselves, but lifting the strike will allow them to work during that process, the Writers Guild told members in an email.

Hollywood actors remain on strike with no talks yet on the horizon.

Writers’ picket lines have been suspended, but they were encouraged to walk in solidarity with actors, and many were on the lines on Tuesday, including Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who picketed alongside friend and ER actor Noah Wyle as he has throughout the strikes.

“We would never have had the leverage we had if SAG had not gone out,” Weiner said.

“They were very brave to do it.”

Striking actors voted to expand their walkout to include the lucrative video game market, a step that could put new pressure on Hollywood studios to make a deal with the performers who provide voices and stunts for games.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists announced the move late on Monday, saying 98 per cent of its members voted to go on strike against video game companies if ongoing negotiations are not successful. The announcement came ahead of more talks planned for Tuesday.

Acting in video games can include a variety of roles, from voice performances to motion capture work as well as stunts. Video game actors went on strike in 2016 in a work stoppage that lasted nearly a year.

Some of the same issues are at play in the video game negotiations as in the broader actors strike that has shut down Hollywood for months, including wages, safety measures and protections on the use of artificial intelligence. The companies involved include gaming giants Activision, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Take 2 Productions as well as Disney and Warner Bros.’ video game divisions.

“It’s time for the video game companies to stop playing games and get serious about reaching an agreement on this contract,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement.

Audrey Cooling, spokeswoman for video game producers, said they are “continuing to negotiate in good faith” and have reached tentative agreements on more than half of the proposals on the table.

So far this year, US consumers have spent $US34.9 billion ($A54.5 billion) on video games, consoles and accessories, according to market research group Circana.

The threat of a video game strike emerged as Hollywood writers were on the verge of getting back to work after months on the picket lines.

The alliance of studios, streaming services and producers has chosen to negotiate only with the writers so far, and has made no overtures yet toward restarting talks with SAG-AFTRA. That will presumably change soon.

SAG-AFTRA leaders have said they will look closely at the writers’ agreement, which includes many of the same issues, but it will not effect their demands.

– AAP

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