With the town prepping for a strike in as little as two weeks, the Writers Guild of America’s still opting for a go-slow approach to negotiations.
The WGA has agreed to return to the bargaining table Monday morning — six days after the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers withdrew its controversial residuals revamp — at WGA West headquarters in Hollywood.
The upcoming session will be only the 11th day of face-to-face negotiations since the formal bargaining began in mid-July.
At one point last week, AMPTP topper Nick Counter upbraided the WGA for stonewalling, called the negotiations futile and asserted that the WGA leaders were “hidebound” to strike.
The only movement so far has come from this week’s much-welcomed decision by the studios and nets to pull their residuals off the table, which came with the admonition from Counter that he expected the WGA to start removing some of its 26 demands.
Both sides huddled in meetings Thursday before announcing the resumption of negotiations. For many, the overriding concern centered on results of the guild’s strike authorization vote, which closed Thursday night, with a formal announcement of the results expected today.
The WGA could go on strike as early as Nov. 1. In the meantime, members of the WGA negotiating committee and strike captains have been making phone calls and sending emails to members in recent days urging a yes vote on the authorization question.
Several members responded by expressing concerns that the practice, while not illegal, violates the notion that a member’s vote — or decision to abstain — should be a private matter. Other scribes complained that the election is being handled internally rather than by a third party.
WGA spokesman said the outreach by “contract captains” was in service of securing the largest participation possible.
“We think a high turnout is consistent with democratic principles,” he added. “Members are being encouraged to vote, but how they vote is completely private.”
For its part, the AMPTP moved Thursday to defuse speculation that the WGA could demand that showrunners not cross guild picket lines. In response to a recently submitted question, it noted on its website that WGA strike rules specifically state that the guild cannot and will not discipline or fine multihyphenate members who come to work and do only nonwriting duties.
It also reiterated Counter’s promise to take the WGA to court if it interferes with showrunners, in response to a question from a multihyphenate as to whether employers expect performance of nonwriting duties if there is a strike.
“We expect that all of our employees will live up to their contractual obligations, and we will vigorously pursue legal remedies if the WGA unlawfully tries to interfere with their ability to do so,” the AMPTP said.