Studios Agree to May 11 Negotiations With Writers Guild

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The scribes’ current contract will be extended to June 30, likely forcing an extension of SAG-AFTRA’s, as well.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has agreed to a proposal from the Writers Guild of America that talks between the parties, delayed from March 23 by the pandemic, will start next month, according to a letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

In the Friday letter, AMPTP president Carol Lombardini tells WGA West executive director David Young that the studio alliance agrees with his suggestion in a Friday email that the parties exchange initial proposals May 1 and begin talks May 11. Per an earlier proposal by the AMPTP, the current contract, set to expire May 1, will be extended to June 30.

"Since these negotiations will be conducted in a unusual manner," Lombardini writes, "kindly call me at your convenience so that we may discuss the details surrounding the conduct of the upcoming negotiations."

That’s a reference to Young’s proposal that talks would be by video and telephone conference, a coronavirus-necessitated departure from in-person bargaining that typically involves 50 to 100 negotiators meeting at AMPTP headquarters.

This schedule will almost certainly force SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP to extend the actors’ contracts, currently set to expire June 30. No talks have been set. The DGA’s agreements also expire June 30, but that guild has already negotiated and ratified its three-year successor agreements.

Certain aspects of the DGA deal — notably the residuals provisions and perhaps the basic wage increases — are likely to serve as a pattern  for the corresponding aspects of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA deals, but both of those unions have non-pattern issues, as well.

Meanwhile, Young had also suggested in his Friday email that the WGA Health Fund extend eligibility to participants who would otherwise lose coverage through the end of the year because they fail to meet the required earnings threshold. Entertainment union health plans generally are open only to those union members who meet a specified earnings level. Lombardini replied that she would have to discuss the matter internally.

Read the AMPTP letter, below.

Dear David:

Thank you for your email of April 15, 2020, relating to the extension of the term of the 2017 Writers Guild of America Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement ("the MBA") and certain aspects relating to negotiations for a successor agreement. The AMPTP appreciates the WGA’s agreement with the AMPTP’s proposed extension of the MBA until June 30, 2020. The AMPTP also agrees with the WGA’s proposal to exchange proposals on May 1, 2020, and to commence negotiations on May 11, 2020.

Since these negotiations will be conducted in an unusual manner, kindly call me at your convenience so that we may discuss the details surrounding the conduct of the upcoming negotiations.

I will need to have further internal discussions with regard to the entirely separate matter of writers' health coverage which you referenced in your letter and will respond once those discussions have concluded. In the meantime, I look forward to starting what will hopefully be a productive and successful negotiation.

Carol A. Lombardini