Writers Guild Negotiations Fail to Start as Scheduled

Writers Guild of America Building - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of WGA West

The coronavirus shuts down what would ordinarily be a meeting of as many as 100 negotiators and staff.

Negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers did not commence as scheduled Monday due to the coronavirus prohibition on nonessential meetings and the recommendations against air travel.

Bargaining sessions typically involve up to 100 people — some flying in from New York — in an AMPTP conference room in Sherman Oaks (Los Angeles). The abeyance was not surprising, as THR reporting contemplated March 6 when the talks were announced and again on March 10 when the WGA canceled in-person meetings. But what happens next is still undetermined.

“Nothing has been worked out as yet,” said a guild spokesman. “The WGA is evaluating the situation.” The AMPTP did not respond to a request for comment.

Whether the negotiations could be effectively conducted by video link is unclear, especially since talks typically involve a degree of posturing that many compare to Kabuki theater. An alternative is to agree to a four- or six-month extension of the current contract, which expires May 1. But the guild would probably want a wage increase built into any extension, while suddenly hard-hit studios may be reluctant to offer writers the same 3 percent annual wage bump they agreed to with the Directors Guild just 2-and-a-half weeks ago.

That issue alone may be adding uncertainty to the WGA situation, and for SAG-AFTRA as well. The actors’ current pact expires June 30, but whether negotiations will be possible prior to then is unknown, and may — like so much now — depend more on the dictates of public health officials than anything else.