The Writers Guild of America is in the final day of its current master contract — without a deal yet with studios on successor contract.
Talks between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers launched six weeks ago on a remote basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic after two start dates were vacated. The current deal expires at midnight Tuesday. The expiration can be extended if both sides agree.
The WGA has a history of negotiating up until the last minute, as it did three years ago when talks were concluded less than an hour before the contract expired. That strategy, executed by longtime WGA West executive director David Young, is based on the belief that forcing studios to confront an actual strike threat is an incentive to make the best possible deal.
By contrast, SAG-AFTRA reached a deal with the AMPTP on June 10, three weeks before expiration, and the Directors Guild of America concluded its deal nearly four months before the expiration. SAG-AFTRA leaders voted Monday to send out ratification ballots this week and the DGA membership ratified the new deal in early April.
The WGA is required by its constitution to conduct a strike authorization vote among members in order to go on strike — and has yet to do so and would probably need a week to get members on board. During the 2017 negotiations, the WGA leaders took that step two weeks before the expiration and received backing a week later from more than 96% of the 6,310 writers casting ballots.
The WGA negotiations were originally scheduled to commence on March 23 but were pushed back twice as the coronavirus upended business as usual and brought production to a virtual standstill. Before talks started, the expiration of its current three-year deal was extended for two months to June 30.
After negotiations started, the WGA negotiating committee sent out eight messages to members between May 20 and May 4 detailing a wide array of demands including higher script fees, parental leave, the first-ever foreign box office residuals, higher streaming residuals, improved pension and health contributions and eliminating free rewrites.