Writers Guild, AMPTP Making Little Progress Toward Starting Talks

WGA Agents Contract Tug of War Placeholder Negotiation
Gary Musgrave for Variety

The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have made little progress towards starting contract negotiations with both sides far apart on setting up a framework for the talks.

The coronavirus has upended the business climate for contract talks for the WGA as well as SAG-AFTRA and many industry insiders believe the WGA will not be able to call for a strike amid the widespread shutdown of production and economic uncertainty ahead.

The WGA continues to evaluate options for conducting contract talks with Hollywood’s major studios that were to have started March 23 until coronavirus prevention measures made it untenable to hold face-to-face bargaining sessions. Those options include a proposal to extend the expiration of the current master contract by a full year to May 1, 2021 — including the gains achieved in the new Directors Guild of America master contract, which will go into effect on July 1.

“We’re considering that and other options, but have made no proposal,” a guild spokesman said Thursday.

The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have not yet set a new date to start negotiations for the guild’s existing Minimum Basic Agreement that covers most film and TV work. Representatives for the AMPTP did not respond to a request for comment.

But informed sources said the AMPTP had been proposing a two-month extension of the expiration out of concerns that a year-long extension would allow the WGA to mobilize for a strike authorization vote. The studios are indicating that they are focused on what will happen if and when the coronavirus crisis abates enough so that the town could go back to work — with deals in place for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, which will see its contract expire on June 30.

Leaders of the WGA told its members on March 24 that they could be forced to extend the current contract beyond its current May 1 expiration due to the coronavirus pandemic and that they would not seek a strike authorization from members prior to May 1: “Although we had originally planned to meet with the AMPTP beginning March 23rd, given the current health crisis we cannot effectively negotiate this important three-year agreement in our usual fashion.  It may not be possible to conclude a new contract by May 1st, nor will we be asking you for a strike authorization vote in the interim.”

The DGA’s new deal, expected to be ratified by its members this week, includes a provision for a significant boost in made-for-streaming TV series residuals.