Writers Guild Talks Extended to Next Week
Next week is one of the last opportunities to bridge an enormous divide in the size of the deal each side is looking for.
The Writers Guild and Hollywood's studio alliance, the AMPTP, will resume talks Monday morning in Sherman Oaks after recessing for Good Friday. That marks a schedule adjustment, since negotiations were previously set to end Friday, and probably an extension, as it appears talks will continue beyond Monday if necessary.
The ball appears to be in the WGA's court, as the studios are awaiting a guild response to a recent contract proposal. But next week’s sessions will take place against a tense background, as the WGA begins the process of obtaining a strike authorization from its members that would enable the union to walk out immediately after the May 1 expiration of the current contract, which the union has said it will do in the absence of an renewal agreement by then.
Complicating efforts to reach a deal is the enormous gulf between the parties: The guild has said it wants a $535 million package of basic wage increases, residuals enhancements, relief for screen and TV writers who have seen sharp income declines and cash infusions into the troubled health plan and somewhat less troubled pension plan.
In contrast, an analysis by The Hollywood Reporter indicates the guild's demands are roughly triple the size of the deal the studios likely are willing to make, likely in the neighborhood of $180 million. That $350 million divide looms large, and the next week will be one of the last opportunities to bridge it before the current contract expires and a possible strike begins.