Negotiations scheduled to begin today for a new WGA film and TV contract have been postponed because of the industry’s coronavirus shutdown.
The guild and management’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have been talking about when and how they can move forward, even though film and TV production has ground to a halt and movie theaters are shuttered all across the country. The guild’s current contract expires May 1 but probably will be extended until after the pandemic abates.
If they decide to proceed with talks in the near future, it almost certainly will have to be done remotely; the WGA’s negotiating committee has 36 members, and management usually brings dozens of attorneys and studio business affairs and labor relations executives to the bargaining table. In the past, they’d all meet in one room at the AMPTP’s offices in Sherman Oaks – but social distancing will prohibit that.
The DGA, which often sets the pattern of bargaining that the AMPTP hopes the other guilds will follow, made a deal for a new pact on March 5, but the industry’s fortunes have changed so dramatically since then that the DGA pattern might not be of much use in these talks – or in SAG-AFTRA’s, whose contract expires June 30.
Just last month, there was much talk of a writers strike — especially after the guild announced that one of its demands would have dragged the studios into its nearly yearlong battle with the major talent agencies by prohibiting the companies from doing business with unfranchised agencies — such as WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners. The AMPTP told the WGA a year ago that that wouldn’t fly, saying it would pose “a substantial risk of liability for antitrust violation.”
In any event, the threat of a strike doesn’t carry much weight now that the industry is shut down for the foreseeable future.
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