AMPTP floating WGA talk-athon


Management is pitching the WGA on marathon, almost-nonstop negotiating sessions -- but not to commence until Sept. 17.

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers has been corresponding with the guild to find dates mutually acceptable for film and TV contract talks, AMPTP spokesman Jesse Hiestand said. But other than indicating a willingness to return to the bargaining table, the WGA has yet to propose any actual dates, he added.

So late Wednesday, the management negotiators did just that, proposing a return to the negotiating room at AMPTP headquarters in Encino for near-daily sessions until the current contract expires Oct. 31. Once the sessions resume, the only off days specified in the management proposal would be Sept. 27 and 28, when some of the same officials will be involved in an AFTRA board of trustees meeting.

Holding off until mid-September would give the WGA East and West time to conduct their officer elections, a process that has been cited by some observers as contributing to the cessation in bargaining sessions since July 18.

"When we resume, we expect the guilds to provide full and detailed responses to the producers' proposals dated July 16," AMPTP president Nick Counter wrote in a letter to the WGA dated Wednesday.

The talks were stopped so the AMPTP could shift its attention to some final contract sessions with the Teamsters and four basic crafts unions. But those talks wrapped up Aug. 1, with an agreement now out to membership votes at locals of the five unions.

The first two sessions between the AMPTP and the WGA were marked by sharp -- and sometimes public -- disagreement over broad areas under discussion.

Perhaps chief among the nettlesome issues is the matter of writer compensation for new-media content. But the AMPTP also has put forth a controversial proposal to review all residuals with an eye toward allowing studios to recoup some basic film and TV projects costs before paying on residual formulas.

When asked for comment on the AMPTP proposals for resuming the talks, WGA West spokesman Neal Sacharow said late Thursday, "It's yet to be worked out."