WGA Negotiations in Progress But a Deal Remains Elusive

WGA Strike February 2008 - Getty - H 2017
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It’s touch and go — and down to the wire.

Talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers resumed Monday afternoon, but with just seven hours until contract expiration and a threatened strike, an agreement remains elusive, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

According to an informed source speaking on condition of anonymity, the WGA has been responding point by point to the studios’ latest offer, but had not agreed to any of the companies’ proposals on issues still in play.

However, a potentially more optimistic sign is that the guild has not issued strike rules instructing the members what they can and (mostly) cannot do during a strike. In their last walkout a decade ago, the WGA posted strike rules on its website over two weeks prior to contract expiration. Still, the union could easily issue such rules Monday night if it strikes.

At this point, there’s no telling whether 12:01 a.m. Tuesday will bring a deal, a strike or even an extension of talks, although the guild previously said that it would walk immediately in the absence of a new deal with the AMPTP.

The parties are operating under a press blackout, but sources tell THR that a host of issues remain in play.

As previously reported, the companies have raised the dollar ceiling that determines which writers could benefit from their proposal to pay overages when writers work longer on episodes of short order series, an issue referred to as “span” because the crux of the matter is the time span that a writer spends working on a script. THR has now learned that the parties are still not agreed on what constitutes a short order series — i.e., how short a season must be for the overage mechanism to apply at all — nor on how long a time span (weeks per script) will trigger overages.

The parties are also said to still remain apart on at least two other issues: script parity — the WGA demands that scripts for all platforms be subject to the same wage floors regardless of production budget — and “outsize increases,” the WGA insistence that a variety of categories of writer get extra-large salary increases.

Also in play: cash infusions into the guild’s troubled health plan and limitations on holds and exclusivity — the practice of putting TV writers on ice, uncompensated, between seasons even on short order series, where the smaller number of episodes mean that the writers are making less to begin with than on traditional network series.

The writers struck for about 100 days in 2007-08, costing a wide swath of the California economy an estimated $2.1 billion to $2.5 billion — figures that suggest that, with inflation, a strike this year could cost the economy about $200 million per week.

Within the industry itself, some crewmembers, writers, actors and others would likely lose their homes if a strike persisted, and audiences would be driven off linear channels and onto digital platforms where an abundance of new and library content beckons. But many writers call the last strike a success and may see another walkout as the way to get what they say they need and deserve.