Strike strategy moves away from Alliance
The WGA aims to change the dynamic in its stymied contract fight with Hollywood’s majors by seeking talks with individual studios rather than through the umbrella Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers bargaining unit.In a message sent to WGA members Saturday morning, the guild’s negotiating committee said it would make the “legal demand” for negotiations with individual AMPTP member concerns on Monday. It’s highly doubtful that any of the majors will be willing to engage in individual talks with the guild, given the unanimity of the CEOs’ disdain for the guild’s stance in the bargaining room and tactics during the now six-week-old strike. Nor would the seven largest members — CBS Corp., Disney, NBC Universal, News Corp., Sony Pictures, Time Warner and Viacom — likely be willing to give up their collective leverage by bargaining individually. Still, WGA said it believes the AMPTP’s group structure “inhibits individual companies pursuing their self-interest in negotiations” and that “the internal dynamics of the AMPTP make it difficult for the conglomerates to reach consensus and negotiate on a give and take basis.” Details of WGA’s request for individual negotiations were murky on Saturday. Guild said in its statement that each signatory member of AMPTP “is required to bargain with us individually if we make a legal demand that it do so.” Guild is expected to hold a membership meeting to discuss the new tactic and state of the strike on Monday night, reportedly in Santa Monica. AMPTP dismissed the WGA’s effort as a ploy that will have no impact on the resolve of the org’s key members. “This is merely the latest indication that the WGA organizers are grasping for straws and have never had a coherent strategy for engaging in serious negotiations,” AMPTP spokesman Jesse Hiestand said on Saturday. “The AMPTP may have different companies with different assets in different businesses, but they are all unified in one common goal — to reach an agreement with writers that positions everyone in our industry for success in a rapidly changing marketplace.” Guild’s move on Saturday comes after a week of maneuvering and a deepening of the divide between the WGA and studios. Developments of the past week included Thursday’s filing of a charge against the AMPTP with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that the majors violated federal labor law in issuing the ultimatum for the guild to remove several of its demands as a condition of continued bargaining, which sparked the blowup on Dec. 7 of the most recent round of negotiations. Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America also formally put the biz on notice that it intends to sked its contract talks with the AMPTP after the first of the year if the WGA and majors haven’t made any progress toward inking a deal.