A month after its negotiations with producers stalled, the Writers Guild of America has told its 12,000 members they should not expect a resolution any time soon.
“Waiting is always difficult and frustrating, but it’s an inevitable part of the process,” wrote negotiating committee chair John Furia Jr. and WGA West exec director John McLean in an email sent Thursday to the membership. “We are convinced that, over time, our chances for an acceptable contract improve. Summer will be over before you know it. Continue working and accepting writing assignments.”
The WGA emphatically rejected a final contract offer June 2 from the Hollywood studios and nets but urged that negotiations continue. The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers told the WGA at that point that it was not revising the offer, leaving both sides in uncharted territory, with WGA members continuing to work under a contact that expired May 2.
The AMPTP has not locked out writers; the WGA has told its members to keep working under the expired contract. The WGA has stressed it has no plans to ask members for a strike authorization.
“We do not believe that the companies will lock out writers and, although the arbitration clauses ended when the contract expired, the guild will continue to enforce the provisions of the contract by going to court if necessary,” Furia and McLean said.
Thursday also marked the expiration of part of the AMPTP’s offer under which the increases it was offering would have been retroactive to May 2 had the deal been ratified in 30 days.
An AMPTP spokesman indicated Thursday that companies would not lock out writers. “While the time for the AMPTP’s offer has expired, we will continue to employ writers under their individual contracts,” he added.
That statement underscored the uncertainty of the current situation since it’s unclear whether the terms of individual contracts would contain the same terms and conditions as the expired WGA contract.
The AMPTP balked last month over the guild’s proposal for a one-year deal similar to the pact reached earlier this year by SAG and AFTRA. The companies have asserted they need the stability of the standard three-year pact; their final offer spurns the WGA’s key demands with no hikes in residuals for DVDs or video-on-demand sales and no jurisdiction over reality TV.
Stack of union pacts expire
Furia and McLean noted the AMPTP faces a long list of negotiations, beginning with a pact for Teamster drivers and four Basic Crafts unions to replace the contract expiring July 31. The Teamsters have threatened to picket every production nationwide if they do not get an acceptable deal.
“At the present time, it is unclear whether a new agreement will be reached,” Furia and McLean said of the Teamster talks, which launched a month ago and will resume next week.
The duo noted that the AMPTP and the networks will probably then enter into negotiations with the DGA in the early fall, followed by AFTRA network code talks in October/November and SAG film-TV negotiations during the fall.
“While both DGA and SAG agreements expire on June 30, 2005, we believe that the companies will try to conclude early deals with DGA and SAG to avoid the prospect of a de facto strike in early 2005,” Furia and McLean added. “Thus, the next six months will include extended negotiation activity with at least four other guilds in addition to the WGA.”
Furia and McLean also acknowledged concerns by members over the current status of the WGA agreement, noting that the guild has never previously opted to keep working under an expired contract. “But that has always been an option under the labor laws of the United States, and it is the option that the negotiating committee believes best serves the needs and interests of the members in the current circumstances,” they added.