After three years of on-again off-again negotiations, the Writers Guild of America has reached an “agreement in principle” with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers for a theatrical and TV basic pact, the guild said Jan. 17.

The agreement ends three years of informal bargaining with the producers, a process that at one point looked like it might lead to a strike. This is the second piece of a writers/producers resolution, following an agreement with the Big Three networks hammered out last month.

Guild officials were scheduled to meet Jan. 20 to “finalize” a draft of the accord. It then goes the WGA’s negotiating committee for approval.

Details of the pact were not provided. But sources close to the talks called the deal “favorable” to the union.

AMPTP officials could not be reached for comment.

A source said the talks were still so delicate that any disclosure of specifics in the tentative pact could jeopardize the entire deal.

“It could still blow up in our faces,” the source said.

Another union source privy to the talks said the new pact makes particular progress in establishing a payment structure for re-use of guild literary material and motion picture footage in interactive programs.

Progressive pact

Other issues on the table have included an improved compensation package, more employment opportunities for writers in “nontraditional programming” (such as reality-based fare), creative and credits provisions, timely payments for rewrites, quicker payment for location expenses for longform TV writers, expanded use of basic cable resid formulas and the creation of a WGA-AMPTP committee on daytime serial writers.

In conjunction with the new agreement, the guild canceled a Feb. 1 membership meeting and ratification vote for a separate pact with the network production units, which was hammered out Dec. 3. The guild said its negotiating team, which included its experimental Contract Adjustment Committee, bargained with the AMPTP through a marathon session Jan. 10-14.

If a deal is ultimately struck, it will mean the end of a lengthy process with periodic informal discussions between the WGA’s Contract Adjustment Committee and the AMPTP. The guild created the committee in an attempt to bargain informally without the pressure of a deadline.

Close calls

But several times this year the CAC came close to being dissolved when it failed to reach agreements.

Once formal talks with the AMPTP started, the guild created a negotiating team that included members of the CAC as well as other WGA officers and members.

If the negotiating committee ratifies the tentative pact, it will have to be voted on by the WGA West and East boards of directors and, finally, by the membership.

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