Writers Guild Proposes Studio Negotiations Begin in May

Getty

The proposal includes a contract extension to June 30.

Talks between the Writers Guild of America and major motion picture and television studios, originally scheduled to begin March 23, may start next month.

The WGA West proposed in an email disclosed Friday that the parties exchange initial proposals May 1 and begin talks the week of May 11.

The email, from WGAW executive director David Young to Carol Lombardini, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, also proposed extending the existing contract to June 30. It’s currently set to expire May 1.

“The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to the conduct of meaningful, and we hope successful, negotiations,” wrote Young. “This [timetable] will give both sides a week to analyze the opening proposals, while still leaving almost eight weeks in which to conduct negotiations.”

Those talks, Young proposed, would be by video and telephone conference, an unprecedented departure from in-person bargaining that typically involves 50 to 100 negotiators meeting in person at AMPTP headquarters.

Young also suggested 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.

A WGAW spokesman emphasized that no agreement has been reached on Young’s proposal regarding contract talks.

———————————

Read the letter below:

Dear Carol:

I am writing in response to your April 8 letter concerning MBA negotiations. I thank you for your letter.  You’ve expressed frustration that it has taken until now to provide you with a response to the AMPTP’s proposed contract extension and dates for commencing negotiations.  But I hardly need to remind you the COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to the conduct of meaningful, and we hope successful, negotiations. The effect of the crisis is particularly disruptive for the Guild, which represents the interests of 15,000 writers located throughout the country, with whom we regularly must communicate about bargaining objectives and developments.

Having assessed all of our options in light of the constantly changing public health situation, the Guild responds to the AMPTP’s proposal as follows.  We are prepared to agree to an extension of the 2017 MBA until June 30.  We propose to exchange proposals for a successor MBA by the close of business on May 1, and agree to begin negotiations by video and telephone conference during the week of May 11.  This will give both sides a week to analyze the opening proposals, while still leaving almost eight weeks in which to conduct negotiations.

In addition, and as a further means of addressing the immediate impact of the pandemic, the Guild proposes that on or before April 24 the trustees of the WGA Health Fund adopt an amendment to the plan extending eligibility to plan participants who will lose coverage through the end of the year because they fail to meet the earnings threshold during this time period and otherwise don’t have extended care points to continue their coverage.  This is detailed in my email exchange with Jim Hedges at the Health Fund, which you were copied on yesterday.

I hope to hear from you regarding this proposal in the next few days.

Very truly yours,

David Young