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WGA Scripts ‘De-Facto Strike’

Nov 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The Writers Guild of America has pushed the start date of its contract negotiations with networks and studios to next summer, potentially disrupting pilot season and raising fears of a strike.

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which serves as the negotiating organization for broadcast networks and studios, first proposed that the parties meet at the negotiating table in September. After the WGA rejected the date, the AMPTP proposed January.

WGA Executive Director David Young released a statement Monday that said the guild would not commence negotiations until an unspecified date next summer, “well in advance of the [Oct. 31, 2007] contract expiration.”

“The WGA has always worked with the companies to make sure that all writers are covered by a guild agreement with proper compensation and residuals for their work,” Mr. Young said. “We fully expect that a fair agreement will be reached in our upcoming negotiation.”

But for networks, summer is too close to the fall season — and the conclusion of the current WGA contract — for comfort. Broadcast networks tend to pick up fall pilot scripts by the end of January, produce pilots in the spring and start series production in the summer.

“They’ve thrown down the gauntlet and basically told us we have to prepare for a strike,” said Nick Counter, president of the AMPTP. “It’s what’s known in the industry as a de-facto strike, because a strike actually occurs in a cessation and reduction in employment well in advance of a strike date.”

With the WGA refusing to meet in January, networks may develop less scripted programming or order backup scripts of returning series.

The move could also result in a repeat of the WGA’s last contract negotiations, in 2004, when talks dragged out for months past the expiration date without a strike.