The WGA has made it clear that the guild wants to go back to the negotiating table as soon as possible even as it moves to hold a strike authorization vote among its members.
The guild confirmed into a statement to Variety on Wednesday that it is ready to resume talks on a new master contract whenever the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is ready to meet. Meanwhile, the AMPTP says it has been waiting to hear back from the guild on the next step for the talks.
The sides ended talks last Thursday after two weeks of bargaining. The current Minimum Basic Agreement covering film and TV work expires May 1.
In response to an inquiry from Variety, the WGA affirmed its goal of resuming negotiations as soon as possible.
“Last Thursday night at 9 p.m. the AMPTP advised the WGA via voice mail that ‘we don’t see any need to meet tomorrow,’ meaning Friday March, 24th, the last day scheduled for negotiations,” the WGA said in a statement. “That’s their right, and the WGA will recommence negotiations whenever the AMPTP is ready to meet and invites us back.”
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After the guild informed the AMPTP of its decision to seek a strike authorization vote late last week, it’s understood that AMPTP president Carol Lombardini told guild leaders there was no point in continuing the talks. The AMPTP position is that a comprehensive offer was put on the table last week and the WGA did not respond beyond triggering the strike authorization vote.
At some point late Thursday there was an exchange of communications between the sides that left the AMPTP with the impression that they would hear a new proposal or date suggestion for renewed talks.
“We’ve always indicate we are willing to talk when they are, and we have not heard from them,” said an AMPTP spokesman.
There had been rumors that the WGA would delay returning to the bargaining table until after the vote was completed. That would have set up a pressure-cooker situation of leaving only a week or two at most to wrangle the range of complicated issues on the table.
On Wednesday afternoon, the WGA sent a message to members detailing plans for the strike authorization vote to be conducted in mid-April. That will come after the West and East have convened membership meetings to discuss the state of the bargaining with the major studios and networks.
The strike authorization vote does not mean that writers will automatically walk. But approval by the membership gives the board of the WGA West and WGA East council the ability to call a strike.
About 6,000 members of the West and East are eligible to vote on the strike authorization — those members who have worked under the AMPTP contract during the past six years.
Read the message to WGA members below.
Dear WGA Members,
As you know, our scheduled negotiations with the AMPTP concluded last Friday without a deal. Despite the fact that we have withdrawn almost 50% of our economic asks, the companies have yet to put an economic offer on the table. Even with their record profits there is, apparently, no money for writers. That was unacceptable on Friday; it is unacceptable now.
With our contract set to expire May 1st, the WGA Negotiating Committee unanimously recommended that the WGAW Board and WGAE Council approve a strike authorization vote. Since then, both the Board and Council have voted unanimously to send the strike authorization vote to the membership.
How does this work?
Voting will be conducted online and at special membership meetings in mid-April. At these meetings our elected leadership will lay out the full status of negotiations as well as our bargaining strategy moving toward contract deadline. After all member questions have been addressed, the strike authorization vote will proceed. We will update you after the balloting and meeting dates have been finalized.
If the strike authorization vote passes, the Board and Council, in consultation with the Negotiating Committee, are empowered to call a strike, if necessary, after the contract expires at midnight on May 1st.
Our goal remains to negotiate the best possible deal before that date. We ask for your continuing solidarity and support.