WGA Talks Break Without Progress

Contract talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers broke off Friday with both sides remaining miles apart on key issues.

Having met six times since formal conversations began, the parties’ only apparent area of agreement is that no real bargaining has yet to occur.

The WGA asked members for strike authorization earlier this week, and the AMPTP contends the guild is running out the clock during negotiations. The current writers contract expires Oct. 31.

AMPTP President Nick Counter issued a strongly worded statement late Friday blasting the WGA’s negotiation efforts, calling the guild “hidebound to strike,” meaning they’re determined.

“We have had six across-the-table sessions and have been met with only silence and stonewalling from the WGA leadership,” read the statement. “We have attempted to engage on major issues, but no dialogue has been forthcoming from the WGA leadership. This is the most frustrating and futile attempt at bargaining that anyone on the AMPTP negotiating team has encountered in guild negotiation history.”

The statement continues: “The WGA leadership apparently has no intention to bargain in good faith. The WGA leadership is hidebound to strike. We are farther apart today than when we started, and the only outcome we see is a disaster engineered by the present leadership of the WGA.”

The AMPTP contended WGA’s negotiating committee left the meeting at 11:30 a.m., after less than an hour at the table, with the next meeting not scheduled until Tuesday.

As of press time, WGA had not yet commented on the meeting.

The latest development seems to increase the possibility of an industrywide writers strike.

Key negotiation issues remain residual rights and the codifying of payment for projects distributed via new-media distribution systems, like online downloads and mobile phones. The AMPTP reportedly is seeking to change the entire current system in favor of one that would not offer residuals until production costs are recouped. The WGA seeks to extend the current residual system into new media.

When the strike ballots return Oct. 18, the guild expects members will grant authorization.

At this point, few in either camp expect the parties to reach an agreement by the contract expiration. During the last negotiations battle three years ago, the WGA worked for months without a contract as negotiations dragged on.

“Working past our contract deadline remains an option,” noted a WGA letter to members.

(Editor: Horowitz)

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