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Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Threatening to Throw ‘Industry Into Chaos’

UPDATE – The dealmakers appear to be getting nowhere. Negotiators for Hollywood agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved little progress at their seventh session on Tuesday, with a chaotic scenario looming on April 7.

“When Guild leadership is ready to move on from their declared threatening phase, we stand ready to work through these issues and come to an agreement,” the Association of Talent Agents said. “We hope this happens before WGA’s proposed plan throws our industry into chaos, disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable WGA members.”

The WGA blasted back, saying the agencies had ignored its proposals, asserting “progress has been frustratingly slow” and accusing the agencies of not giving the guild information that would help writers get paid on time.

“We hope to make a deal before expiration, but we won’t be intimidated by another threat from the agencies,” the WGA added. “Their ‘your Guild won’t negotiate’ stance is a calculated negotiating ploy, but it will not substitute for serious conversation about the damage inflicted on writers by conflicted practices. We stand ready to talk.”

Tuesday’s session came on the heels of WGA leaders sending members contingency plans for the possible expiration of its agency franchise agreement. The WGA is demanding the elimination of agency packaging fees and ownership interest in affiliate production companies — demands that the agencies have insisted are not feasible.

The WGA will hold five days of member voting starting on March 27 on a proposed “code of conduct.” Guild leaders have said they expect the code to be approved overwhelmingly. If the agreement expires, the WGA will require members to fire their agents, if they have not agreed to the new code.

The ATA issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon after the session concluded that accused WGA executive director David Young of stalling. It said the WGA has reached accord on the issues of inclusion and monitoring of the agreement, but did not say when — or if — another negotiating session will take place.

“WGA leadership presented nothing other than their acceptance of two of ATA’s important proposals: one on inclusion and non-discrimination, and the second on the formation of a standing committee that will monitor compliance of the agreement,” the ATA said.

“Last week, David Young laid out his three-pronged negotiating strategy. He said that we’re still in phase two — the threatening phase. It is unfortunate that they have not moved past this phase and that they are continuing to keep to their long-term strategy of not having any meaningful negotiations until after the vote,” it added.

The ATA also repeated its assertion that WGA leaders are not allowing the 15,000 guild members to have individual choice.

“We hope that WGA leadership will get serious about collaborating on an agreement that protects the best interests of all writers and artists,” it added.

“In the interim, we want our clients to know — writers should have individual choice when charting their own career paths, and we will continue to fight for them; WGA leadership should want to engage on the two key issues of packaging and affiliate production. So far, they have not. Instead, they continue to mislead their members with false information and horror stories.”

The ATA also said more than 100 of its member companies have informed the ATA that they will not sign the “code of conduct.”

The WGA asserted Tuesday that it had made “five important moves” over the last weeks in response to the concerns of the agencies and WGA members.

“The agencies ignored everything we presented, including our offer on Independent Film Packaging, and instead issued an ultimatum – essentially the same ultimatum that they first stated on February 26th – namely that, as a precondition to any further negotiation, we must first compromise on their demand to continue with conflicted practices,” the guild said. “That we cannot and will not do.”

“Right now, seven weeks into these discussions, the agencies will not even agree to give the Guild information that would help writers get paid on time,” the WGA added. “They have stood on their principle of ‘choice,’ which is, in reality, a demand to negotiate writer-by-writer, rather than acknowledging the Guild as the representative of all writers and their proper negotiating partner.”

 

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