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WGA won’t give in to ultimatum

Guild says it won't back down

With negotiations between striking writers and majors at an impasse, the WGA leadership isn’t backing down.

WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA West exec director David Young told guild members late Wednesday that they’re not giving in to last week’s ultimatum by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Talks collapsed last Friday after the companies insisted that the WGA take half a dozen demands off the table and the guild refused to do so.

“Don’t be confused by the rhetoric,” Young and Verrone said. “We all know what this negotiation is about. It’s about new media and our future. We have issues on the table that are negotiable, just like the AMPTP does. The difference is that we don’t issue ultimatums. These are difficult times but we know that our membership has the resolve to see this through.”

The missive came amid expectations that the DGA will announce as early as Thursday a start date for its talks with the AMPTP. CEOs have been angered over the guild’s recent verbal attacks on the AMPTP and its refusal to narrow the issues on the table.

Additionally, although most WGA members support Young and Verrone, a number have questioned their insistence on keeping proposals covering reality and animation jurisdiction and sympathy strikes on the table.

The missive by Young and Verrone contained no reference to the looming DGA negotiations. Many WGA members believe that the AMPTP’s departure from the WGA talks was preordained, partly because the AMPTP prefers to deal with the DGA.

Young and Verrone asserted in the message that the AMPTP’s strategy since negotiations started in July has been to force the guild into a bad deal by forcing it to withdraw demands — such as its DVD proposal — and then by making unacceptable proposals. The WGA took DVDs off the table on Nov. 4 but negotiations collapsed later that day with guild leaders insisting that the AMPTP hadn’t moved far enough in response.

The strike began the next day. The two sides resumed negotiations on Nov. 26 — with the understanding that talks would focus on new media — but achieved only marginal progress before talks fell apart again last week.

“In any negotiation there are bottom line goals and ‘fringe’ goals,” Young and Verrone said. “The AMPTP wants to make the WGA reduce our demands to the bottom line so we’ll negotiate down from an acceptable deal to a bad deal If we do this, as we did with DVDs, you can be sure they would not hand us the deal we want. They would simply try to further wear us down.”

The AMPTP has been hammering away at Young and Verrone in recent days over their refusal to back off from the issues of reality and animation jurisdiction, asserting that the guild leaders are far more interested in staying on strike instead of knuckling down to make a deal. But the WGA duo blamed the AMPTP for the continuation of the strike.

“If the AMPTP was serious they would make us a good offer on the ‘real’ issues and the strike would end pretty damn fast,” they added. “There’d be no choice. But that’s not what they want. They are still trying to create division within our ranks so they can force us to take a cheap deal.”

Young and Verrone also said they’re not surprised by AMPTP’s tactics, adding, “We know this. We expect it. It’s business.”

The duo urged members to stay supportive, asserting that increased pressure created by the strike will bring it to an end more quickly.

“Our only weapons against these tactics are to increase our pressure on the companies and remain united and resolved,” they added. “The negotiating committee is not crazy. The guild is not scared or divided over the principles of this strike. We are simply insisting that the AMPTP start real negotiations. Until then we must stand together. The stronger we are, the faster this will end. It’s that simple and it’s that hard.”

Young and Verrone also said they’re confident that individual companies are willing to break away from the AMPTP to make a separate deal, though such a develop would surprise many in Hollywood. They also said WGA West board and negotiating committee members will be on all picket lines Thursday to answer questions.

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