Counter questions WGA's seriousness at the table

Morning session described as 'testy'

Their contract talks began in mid-July, but Wednesday marked just Day 3 of actual collective bargaining — thus is the lazy, hazy pace of negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP.

Not that the sessions haven't produced more than a bit of spectacle, with the parties tossing public barbs about the preposterous nature of each other's proposals early in the talks. After the latest session, the AMPTP fired a heat-seeking verbal missile.

"The Writers Guild of America made clear today that they are not serious about negotiating a new contract and have a total disregard for the true state of the industry and its fundamental economics," AMPTP president Nick Counter said.

"With two months to respond to our proposals, we were once again rebuffed with little or no explanation," he said. "Seemingly, the WGA is much more concerned about posturing, and their proposals (only) seek to vastly increase our costs and encumber our ability to adapt in this ever-changing time."

WGA execs were relatively mute in their public pronouncement, merely acknowledging talks had concluded for the day and would resume today.

Negotiators met at the WGA headquarters in midtown Los Angeles, and that's where they'll convene again at 10:30 a.m. Two previous sessions, held July 16 and 18, were staged at AMPTP headquarters in suburban Encino.

Two big issues figure prominently in the talks. The guild wants expanded Internet residuals; management wants to revise current film and TV formulas to allow studios to recoup some basic costs before paying out any residuals.

But both sides have long lists of other proposals, involving an array of pay and benefit matters to be detailed in a contract running hundreds of pages long. So negotiation-watchers see little likelihood of a resolution by the time the current WGA-AMPTP contract expires Oct. 31.

More fortuitously, few believe that a strike is imminent, and negotiations could drag on indefinitely.

Wednesday's bargaining began with a long morning session, described by one well-placed source as "testy." The negotiating teams broke for separate lunches at the nearby Farmers Market, then returned for a brief afternoon session that concluded shortly after 4 p.m.

It's unclear if a negotiating session will be held Friday, though the day appears free from scheduling conflicts. Next week, no sessions are expected because of health and pension fund meetings that reps from both sides are committed to attending.