In a move echoing the bitter disputes surrounding the 100-day WGA strike, the Writers Guild of America West has accused the congloms of failing to comply with the guild’s 8-month-old contract.
The move elicited a sharp denial by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which asserted that the WGA has misinterpreted the terms of the deal that ended the strike by wrongly asserting that it covers projects prior to start of the agreement.
The WGA announced Wednesday that it has filed for arbitration over alleged nonpayment of new-media residuals for programs sold as electronic downloads, also known as electronic sell-through (EST). WGA West board member John Bowman, who headed the guild’s negotiating committee, said the contract with the companies on electronic sell-through covers feature films produced after July 1, 1971, and TV programs produced after 1977.
“The companies have reneged on this agreement and are taking the position that only programs produced after Feb. 13, 2008, are covered by the new provision,” he added. “This may be their deal with the DGA, but that was never our agreement. Every proposal we made during negotiations made clear our position that library product was covered, and the AMPTP never objected to that position. The guild will not allow this to stand.”
The AMPTP shot back that the WGA is mistaken about how the new-media residuals apply.
“The understanding we reached with the WGA was exactly the same as the one we reached with the DGA,” the AMPTP said. “The DGA deal calls for the new EST formula to apply only to motion pictures that are initially released in new media after the effective date of the new agreement. The producers are implementing the terms of the agreement we made with WGA, just as we have with the other 310 major labor agreements the AMPTP has made over the past 26 years.”
The WGA also said it’s prepping to file for arbitration against the companies for allegedly failing to pay residuals due for the streaming of TV shows on the Internet.
“Our tracking has shown that episodes are staying on websites longer than the 17-day initial window called for in the contract,” said WGA West exec director David Young. “This triggers the payment of a residual, but so far we’ve seen nothing. Given the reports by the conglomerates of the growth of the number of shows being streamed and increases in new-media revenues, this is an unacceptable situation.”
With SAG and the AMPTP a day away from meeting for the first time in four months, WGA West prexy Patric Verrone joined in the attack. He blasted the AMPTP for allegedly being duplicitous in how it’s characterized what SAG members would have received had they accepted the companies’ final offer, made June 30 as the SAG contract expired.
“In light of the fact that writers are not being paid for new-media reuse, it’s unconscionable that the AMPTP proclaims on its website, ‘By working under an expired contract, SAG members are not receiving the new-media residuals that other guild members are already collecting,’ ” Verrone said. “The companies know what is being streamed, and they regularly announce how successful they are in generating online advertising revenue, so there’s no reason for them not to honor the agreement they made with us.”
The guild also said it’s launching a “member outreach and education” campaign on contract enforcement issues.