The small hope that was sparked last month that the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood studios might be able to reach a deal has been smothered as the two sides have gone three weeks without talks and can’t even agree on which side needs to take the next step in negotiations.
Over the past week, the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have publicly released conflicting timelines about the negotiations that took place between them in August, where insiders said some incremental progress was made on artificial intelligence protections but significant differences remain on other key issues despite movement by the studios.
Last Friday, the AMPTP released a “timeline of proposals” outlining the contract offers that were exchanged between it and the Writers Guild, starting with a 69-page studio proposal sent on Aug. 11 that formed the start of the renewed talks.
In the AMPTP’s account, the WGA responded with a four-page counter on Aug. 15 that contained “limited moves in a number of areas.” Over the next two days, the two sides exchanged counterproposals on AI protections, and on Aug. 18, the AMPTP said that it offered further compromises to the guild’s Aug. 15 counterproposal.
“WGA indicated it would respond the following week. AMPTP has not heard from the Guild since that time,” the org said at the end of its statement.
But that claim omits the final meeting on Aug. 22 between the WGA’s negotiating committee and several top studio CEOs, including Disney’s Bob Iger and Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav. AMPTP President Carol Lombardini was also present at the meeting.
In its memo to members, the WGA said that its negotiators were urged by the CEOs to accept its initial Aug. 11 offer, not accounting for the other terms discussed in the following days.
August 11: Initial counter offer from AMPTP
August 15: WGA offers counterproposal
August 22: AMPTP publicly releases unchanged offer from August 11, ignoring WGA's August 15 counterproposal entirely
3/3 #WGAstrike #WGAstrong #1u
— Writers Guild of America West (@WGAWest) September 13, 2023
“The basic message of that meeting was that the companies’ first and only counteroffer to the WGA since the start of the strike, made 11 days before, was and had to be the basis for the only deal they were willing to make,” the guild wrote.
When the guild held firm to its core demands, the AMPTP informed the committee that it would publicly release the Aug. 11 offer. The two sides have not met since.
Now the WGA and AMPTP each say that the other side bears the responsibility of making the next counterproposal to get talks moving again.
The AMPTP argues that the WGA needs to provide a response to the offered compromises it sent out on Aug. 18. The WGA’s position, based on the CEO meeting, is that the Aug. 11 offer is the only full counterproposal that has been sent by the AMPTP, and that they are awaiting a full counteroffer to the Aug. 15 counterproposal sent by the guild.
Studio insiders have voiced frustration to TheWrap about the progress of talks, comparing the WGA’s approach unfavorably to that of the Directors Guild of America, with whom the AMPTP reached a new bargaining agreement back in June. The insiders said that both the studios and DGA gave up big portions of their desired contract goals to get a deal done and feel that the studios have been left “negotiating against themselves” when talking with the writers as they are holding firm on key issues.
But in memos, solidarity rallies and on the picket lines, WGA leaders and members alike have made it clear that they are united under the belief that writers cannot afford to accept a contract in which any of their primary contract goals are abandoned entirely.
With writers facing eroding wages, higher costs of living and a new streaming status quo that has chiseled away at the traditional writers room structure in favor of a “mini-room” structure that harms upward career mobility for younger writers, the guild is holding firm in its demand for a contract that secures their profession’s financial stability.
“Our demands come directly from the membership itself. They address the existential threats to the profession of writing and to our individual careers, all caused by changes to the business model implemented by the companies in the last seven to 10 years,” the guild said in an Aug. 24 memo.
“We have not struck for nearly four months to half-save ourselves, nor are we leaving any sector of this Guild unprotected when we return to work. We are willing to negotiate within these areas, but every existential issue must be met with a genuine solution,” the guild added.
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