Leaders of the Writers Guild of America are insisting that they’re negotiating in good faith over how agents represent writers and are ready to meet for further negotiations.
WGA West Executive Director David Young and WGA West President David Goodman issued the statement Tuesday, a day after Hollywood’s major talent agencies threatened to pull out of further talks and repeated the accusation of bad-faith negotiations.
The two sides have held a pair acrimonious meetings, six weeks before the WGA’s 42-year-old agency franchise agreement expires on April 6. The WGA has made it clear that the guild wants members to cut ties with their agents if the agents do not sign on to a new Code of Conduct. Young placed the blame on the Association of Talent Agencies for the lack of progress, asserting that they have not responded to the WGA proposals.
“As we told you at our meeting February 19th, we continue to be prepared to meet,” Young said. “So far the WGA has scheduled and paid for all of our meetings. The WGA has reserved additional dates at a convenient location for this week, but we want to make clear that the next step, as in any serious negotiation, is for you to finally respond point by point to every one of our proposals. That’s how negotiations work, and we truly don’t know your exact position on any of our proposals.”
The new rules proposed by the WGA would effectively end all packaging deals, in which agencies receive both upfront and backend fees, and bar agencies from any financial interest in any entity or individual “engaged in the production or distribution of motion pictures.”
Karen Stuart, executive director of the ATA, issued a letter Monday to the WGA, which opened by saying, “We write regarding your recent public declarations that the WGA and ATA are ‘at war’ and your public pledge that there is ‘no room for compromise’ with the ATA. Simply stated, your actions run completely afoul of the value and respect we have long held for the Guild.”
She went on to accuse the WGA of refusing to speak with the ATA for nearly a year before agreeing to sit down for formal negotiations earlier this month.
Here’s the entire message from Young and Goodman to Stuart:
Thank you for your letter yesterday.
The Guild has been and will continue to negotiate in good faith. We called you on December 18th to set dates to meet. You weren’t available until February 5th, although we offered earlier dates, including in January, so we commenced in February. Two months is enough time for negotiations.
As we told you at our meeting February 19th, we continue to be prepared to meet. So far the WGA has scheduled and paid for all of our meetings. The WGA has reserved additional dates at a convenient location for this week, but we want to make clear that the next step, as in any serious negotiation, is for you to finally respond point by point to every one of our proposals. That’s how negotiations work, and we truly don’t know your exact position on any of our proposals.
For example, you mentioned on February 5th that you were “fine with” all of our proposals requiring the agencies to provide information to the Guild, but we don’t know specifically which, if any, WGA proposals you were signing off on. Then at our last meeting, you made the provision of information contingent on individual member approval, which is not what we are proposing. Agreeing on these things requires clarity and some formality in the process.
We remind you that we gave you our opening proposals, in writing, over 320 days ago. You’ve given us no formal negotiation response, but we must have one. Further, last week we made significant changes to our proposals, based upon your feedback, and provided you with complete contract language, which is of course also a necessary part of negotiation. But the ATA has yet to provide the WGA with counters or sign-off on any of our proposals, much less contract language.
Please let us know if and when you are ready to meet and we’ll attempt to keep the reservation we made for February 27 or 28. Also, please understand that the next step is for you to respond clearly to all of our proposals. Best –
David A. Goodman