How a group of trees came to be at the centre of Hollywood's strike row

The timing of the decision to prune the row of ficus trees outside Universal Studios has prompted scrutiny. Credit: AP

A row of tightly-trimmed ficus trees outside Universal Studios are at the centre of a face-off between Hollywood studios and striking screenwriters and actors.

Some members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Writers Guild of America unions have accused the studio of purposely pruning the trees in an effort to remove a source of shade for workers picketing under the hot California sun.

They gathered regardless on Wednesday, with one woman wearing a green wreath on her head and holding a sign depicting a full, untrimmed tree under the words: “Never Forget.”

"Universal, get your ducks in order," Konstantine Anthony, a SAG-AFTRA member and the mayor of nearby Burbank, said.

"We don’t want to see any more shady nonsense because the people are watching."

Burbank's city limits don’t include the stretch of Barham Boulevard where the trees were trimmed, which is part of Los Angeles.

Mr Anthony said he had consulted with LA political leaders about the trimming.

"We can’t find any work orders done for this particular tree trimming, which is problematic because in Southern California we have a lot of laws governing trees," he said.

"Normally, you don’t trim until October, and in fact, the exact same style and type of tree about 200 feet this way are not trimmed.

"But those aren’t providing shade to the picketers, are they?"

Los Angeles City Council member Nithya Raman, whose district includes Universal City, said in a statement that no permits had been issued for tree trimming at the site.

The situation is being investigated.

An NBCUniversal spokesperson said in a statement that it knew the trimming had "created unintended challenges for demonstrators, that was not our intention," adding that the studio was working to provide some shade coverage for picketers.

Several high-profile celebrities, including Kevin Bacon, have been seen on US picket lines. Credit: AP

It comes as the enormous Hollywood strike has shut down the production of popular films and television shows across the entertainment industry.

Union bosses had been hoping to negotiate better terms with streaming giants like Netflix, Disney, and Amazon, but discussions fell through.

Kevin Bacon, Jason Sudeikis, and Hilary Duff are just a few of the famous faces who have so far taken to the picket lines.

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