UPDATE to the original 9:20 AM story with additional details: The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers will begin negotiations for a new film and television deal on March 20.
“AMPTP is fully committed to reaching a fair and reasonable agreement that brings strength and stability to the industry,” AMPTP said in a statement Wednesday. A spokesperson for WGA West declined to comment “except to confirm that we have agreed to this date.”
The current WGA contract expires on May 1.
In a video posted last month on the guild’s website, Adam Conover, WGA West board member and member of the guild’s 2023 bargaining committee, warned members to “be prepared. The initial AMPTP proposals still consist almost entirely of cuts and reductions to our compensation and other important protections and benefits.
However, he urged members to disregard strike rumours. “You have probably heard a lot of rumors and provocative claims about our upcoming negotiations in the press. So I want to remind you that anyone who claims to know what the guild is going to do with this cycle doesn’t know what they’re talking about. This is because our guild is a democratic organization. We are the guild, all of us. And it is we, the members, who decide how to proceed.
The WGA is currently in the process of formulating its “demands model,” which is a general outline of what the guild will be looking for at the bargaining table, and has held a series of membership meetings to discuss upcoming contract negotiations. Two meetings earlier this month drew more than 1,300 members, with two more scheduled for Thursday — one at the Sheraton Universal in Universal City, Calif., and the other at the School of Visual Arts Theater in New York. Describing the previous two meetings, the guild said “inspiration and unity are in the air”.
The DGA has moved to the top of each of the last three three-year bargaining rounds, even though its contracts expire at the same time as those of SAG-AFTRA – on June 30. Earlier this month, however, the DGA said that would not be the case. first guild at the negotiating table this year because “the studios are not yet ready to address our key issues”.
The last time the DGA didn’t go first was in 2010, when SAG and pre-merger AFTRA came to the bargaining table first. The last time the WGA was first, in 2007, resulted in a 100-day writers’ strike.
Residues are expected to be a key issue in the negotiations. And for the guild, there is considerable pent-up demand for major gains at the bargaining table. Indeed, in 2020, when the WGA’s previous contract was due to expire, the contract advances it had hoped to secure evaporated with the threat of a strike virtually irrelevant, as the industry was already shut down by the first wave. of the Covid pandemic.
Tailings was one of the few bright spots in the latest WGA West earnings report, which found that tailings collected by the WGA in 2021 increased 5.4% from 2020 to a record high of $493.6 million. Total television residuals increased by 4.7%, while screenwriters’ residuals increased by 6.9%. New media, the largest residual category overall, accounted for almost half of the total residuals collected at 45.2%. This is an increase from the previous year, when new media accounted for 36.7% of the total waste collected.
However, the jobs and total earnings of WGA West writers have both declined in recent years. WGA West members got fewer jobs and less pay last year than in 2020, according to the guild’s 2022 annual report, which found 5,951 writers reported employment in all areas of the arts. work in 2021 – a drop of 6.1% – while writers’ total earnings reported for dues fell 7.7% to $1.55 billion. This is the fewest jobs since 2016 and the lowest incomes since 2017.
Many contenders in last year’s WGA West and WGA East elections said securing increased streaming residuals would be a major focus in upcoming contract negotiations, along with a host of other issues, including rates significantly higher minimum wages to compensate for inflation; more secure retirement and health benefits; more equity and inclusion; the elimination of free labor; and the limitation of mini-rooms, where groups of underpaid writers get together before a TV series’ production to break stories and write screenplays.
And in his annual report last May, Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA East, looks back on the 2007-08 strike, stating that “as guild members anticipated when they went on strike nearly 15 years, digital technology has transformed the way content is created. and distributed, and how our members make a living. On the television and feature side, everything has changed with the advent of on-demand video streaming, including basic changes in reuse and residual payments; reduction in the number of work weeks and the number of writers in the room; added pressure for free development and other unpaid work, and reduced opportunities for members to move up the ladder…career and produce.
He also noted that under the current WGA contract, “the residue from comedy/variety programs made for SVOD is pitiful.”
Among the frequently asked questions on its website, the guild asks, “What happens if writers go on strike?
The answer: “WGA management can only call a strike after the members have authorized it and the current contract has expired. If a strike is called, members are prohibited from performing covered writing services for companies that do not have an agreement with the WGA. To show unity and resolve, writers picket and engage in other collective actions that help pressure AMPTP to improve its offering. Negotiations can continue during a strike.
“By striking and suspending their work, writers are using their influence to secure meaningful economic gains for all union members. A strike can also pose a financial challenge for individual writers. In the event of a strike, a strike fund committee will oversee the WGAW strike fund for members facing economic hardship as a result of the action.
WGA West’s most recent financial report, filed with the U.S. Department of Labor for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022, notes that 29 members had still not repaid $280,659 in strike loans taken out during the last strike. Loans are secured by written assignments of a portion of members’ future residual income. Over time, the amount of these outstanding loans has dropped significantly – from $841,151 in 2011.