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Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have told members that they may need to extend to current contract beyond its current May 1 expiration due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Members received the message on Tuesday afternoon, a day after Variety reported that the WGA was evaluating its options for conducting contract talks with Hollywood’s major studios that were to have started on March 23. The coronavirus prevention measures appear to have made it untenable for the sides to hold a face-to-face bargaining session.

The WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are trying to come to terms on an extension date for the guild’s existing Minimum Basic Agreement that covers most film and TV work. The current pact is set to expire May 1. But given the upheaval to regular business brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the sides need more time to negotiate what is sure to be a tough and complex pact addressing compensation issues in a fast-changing content landscape.

The WGA also said it will 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 AMPTP had no comment. Here’s the message that went out to members:

Dear Members,

We hope this email finds you all doing as well as can be expected in this time of uncertainty and instability.

It’s in that spirit that we want to update you on our current situation with the AMPTP.  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.  Even if no new contract is in place by May 1st, writers can continue working under the 2017 agreement.  We are discussing several options with the companies, including a potential contract extension, but we think it is most sensible to continue to evaluate the constantly – it seems hourly – changing situation before making a decision about the most strategically optimal way forward.

This is not a time for rash decisions or pressured outcomes.  Instead we are conferring with public health authorities, financial analysts, other guilds and unions, legislators, benefit fund experts and others to gather information as the situation continues to evolve.

The Negotiating Committee continues to meet regularly – via teleconference – to discuss options.  Although we realize that members would like to know exactly what will happen and when, those determinations may take some time, so we ask for your patience and understanding.  The committee is determined to make the best possible decision about the path forward. Rest assured, we will continue to put writers’ health and their current and future well-being above all else.  To avoid unnecessary anxiety and confusion, please remember the only reliable source of information about these MBA negotiations is your Guild.

In Solidarity,

MBA Negotiating Committee

Michele Mulroney, Co-Chair
Shawn Ryan, Co-Chair
Betsy Thomas, Co-Chair
 
Liz Alper
Arash Amel
John August
Amy Berg
Ashley Nicole Black
Adam Brooks
Francesca Butler
Patti Carr
Robb Chavis
Meg DeLoatch
Travis Donnelly
Kate Erickson
Dante W. Harper
Eric Heisserer
Melissa London Hilfers
Elliott Kalan
Chris Keyser
Adele Lim
Peter Murrieta
Luvh Rakhe
Dailyn Rodriguez
Erica Saleh
Sara Schaeffer
David Slack
Lauren Ashley Smith
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone
 
David A. Goodman, Ex-Officio
Marjorie David, Ex-Officio 
Beau Willimon, Ex-Officio
Kathy McGee, Ex-Officio 
Bob Schneider, Ex-Officio