Just hours before the WGA and the studios are scheduled to start stridulous talks on a new overall contact, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have decided to publicly play nice, firmly.
“The AMPTP companies approach this negotiation and the ones to follow with the long-term health and stability of the industry as our priority,” the Carol Lombardini-led trade association declared Sunday in a pre-talks salvo. “We are all partners in charting the future of our business together and fully committed to reaching a mutually beneficial deal with each of our bargaining partners,” the AMPTP continued.
“The goal is to keep production active so that all of us can continue working and continue to deliver to consumers the best entertainment product available in the world,” they concluded in a not so subtle ding at rumbles of strike action by the WGA in recent weeks.
With Ellen Stutzman as chief negotiator and past guild presidents David A. Goodman and Chris Keyser as co-chairs, the WGA’s 25-person will be sitting down tomorrow morning at 11 AM with the studios’ team at the AMPTP HQ in Sherman Oaks.
The guild’s pattern of demands, which WGA members approved recently by the widest margin ever (98.4% to 1.6%), provides a glimpse into the guild’s general goals going into the negotiations. They include “significantly” increasing minimums across the board; addressing “the abuses of mini-rooms”; increased residuals; and “standardized compensation and residual terms for features whether released theatrically or on streaming.”
If and when a tentative agreement is reached, the WGA West Board and the WGA East Council will then decide whether to recommend the deal and send it to the membership for a contract ratification vote.
However, that could be a long way off.
“We are going into these discussions with no illusions,” a well-connected WGA member told Leak Herald. “A strike isn’t something anyone takes lightly, but it shouldn’t be taken over the table, especially now,” the seasoned scribe added. The WGA last took to the picket lines in 2007-2008 – a bitter walkout that lasted 100 days.
Putting the stakes in the stark perspective, the guild’s FAQ website page describes what happens if a deal isn’t reached before the May 1 expiration of its current contract.
If it appears an acceptable agreement can’t be reached, the Negotiating Committee may recommend to the WGA West Board and WGA East Council that the membership takes a strike authorization vote. If the WGAW Board and WGAE Council agree with the Negotiating Committee, they will authorize a membership vote. Additional membership meetings may take place in connection with the vote. If a majority of members vote in favor, the WGAW Board and WGAE Council, in consultation with the Negotiating Committee, have the authority to call a strike after the contract expires [on May 1], and there is no acceptable agreement.
“The WGA leadership may call a strike only after the membership has authorized it and the current contract has expired. If a strike is called, members are prohibited from performing covered writing services for companies that don’t have an agreement with the WGA. To demonstrate unity and resolve, writers picket and engage in other collective actions that help put pressure on the AMPTP to better their offer. Negotiations can continue during a strike.
If previous negotiations are any indication, there’s one thing the two sides will probably agree on right off the bat: to impose a media blackout on the talks. “Given the sensitive nature of these bargaining sessions, communications with the membership may be limited at times,” the guild also notes on its website’s frequently asked questions page.