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WGA says Studios’ Latest Offer To Writers Was Designed to Get Them ‘To Cave’ On Demands

‘This was the companies’ plan from the beginning – not to bargain, but to jam us’

By Evan Symon, August 23, 2023 12:14 pm

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents producers and studios, unveiled their latest offer to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) on Tuesday, less than an hour following their latest meeting in Los Angeles.

The WGA strike, which started on May 2nd and has currently lasted 113 days, was, until recently, at a standstill with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Negotiations over better residual fees for streaming service programs, overall better pay, a minimum number of writers on writing staff to ensure continued employment, and strict regulation on the use of artificial intelligence stayed silent for months as the WGA failed to counter the AMPTPs last offer. An attempt at negotiations several weeks ago even led both sides leaving because of all issues remaining unresolved.

However, beginning on August 11th, both sides began meeting again, with the AMPTP formally giving their next counterproposal to the Guild. While the details were not made public, both sides continued negotiations. After well over a week to allow for discussions, as well as to wait on Tropical Storm Hilary passing over, the WGA met once again on Tuesday with many AMPTP studio heads, including Disney CEO Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal Chairwoman Donna Langley. According to the AMPTP, the meeting was over how committed they were to ending the strike as soon as possible and presenting a fair deal to the WGA.

In a rare statement, AMPTP President Carol Lombardini said that “Our priority is to end the strike so that valued members of the creative community can return to what they do best and to end the hardships that so many people and businesses that service the industry are experiencing. We have come to the table with an offer that meets the priority concerns the writers have expressed. We are deeply committed to ending the strike and are hopeful that the WGA will work toward the same resolution.”

The WGA, in contrast, saw things differently, claiming that the meeting on Tuesday was instead “a lecture designed to get us to cave.” After only a short time, WGA representatives walked out of the meeting, with talks seemingly breaking down once again.

“On Monday of this week, we received an invitation to meet with Bob Iger, Donna Langley, Ted Sarandos, David Zaslav and Carol Lombardini,” said the WGA Negotiating Committee in an email to members on Tuesday night. “It was accompanied by a message that it was past time to end this strike and that the companies were finally ready to bargain a deal. We accepted that invitation and, in good faith, met tonight, in hopes that the companies were serious about getting the industry back to work.”

“Instead, on the 113th day of the strike we were met with a lecture about how good their single and only counteroffer was. We explained all the ways in which their counter’s limitations and loopholes and omissions failed to sufficiently protect writers from the existential threats that caused us to strike in the first place. We told them that a strike has a price, and that price is an answer to all – and not just some – of the problems they have created in the business.”

“But this wasn’t a meeting to make a deal. This was a meeting to get us to cave. This was the companies’ plan from the beginning – not to bargain, but to jam us. It is their only strategy – to bet that we will turn on each other. ”

The latest WGA/AMPTP counterproposal

Twenty minutes after the meeting, the AMPTP then released their August 11th counterproposal to the public. According to their proposal, the AMPTP increased the minimum writer room size by allowing “at least two”, as well as two others for the production period. While it doesn’t meet the WGA demand of at least 5 writers for a minimum room size, it does make it so that productions can be flexible on how many writers they will need dependent on production size.

In addition, streaming platforms would, for the first time, make details on how much each showed is viewed to the public and increase the transparency of total viewership. This would then help meet the WGA’s demand  for higher residuals for more popular shows. AI was also covered in the new agreement, saying that it could not be required in productions, and that if it is used, writers would still be credited and paid in full regardless. New pay rates were also added in, with higher overall pay and a new higher wage tier for writer-producers.

“For example, if the Company gives a writer a GAI-produced screenplay and asks the writer to rewrite it, the writer will receive the fee for a screenplay with no assigned material and not a rewrite,” said the AMPTP in their proposal. “Or, if the Company gives a writer a GAI-produced story as the basis for a teleplay, the writer will receive the story and teleplay rate. The offer recognizes the foundational role writers play in the industry and underscores the Companies’ commitment to ending the strike.”

While the WGA has yet to make a decision on the latest offer, the fact that the Guild left the meeting suddenly, as well as their response on Tuesday, likely means that the strike is still far from over. Industry experts told the Globe on Wednesday that the AMPTPs offer was likely not enough, and that the entertainment industry, one of the largest in California, would likely still be at a standstill for quite some time.

“They could accept, but their response to the meeting yesterday is not exactly one that reeks of positivity,” said Theresa Stevenson, an arbitrator in Michigan who has helped settled union disputes and strikes in the past. “There was hope the last few weeks that they would accept, but it just isn’t happening. The WGA is still very worried about AI usage, and said that the newest deal doesn’t address everything there. Also, negotiations need to have actual negotiations. The AMPTP is giving a lot, but the WGA is refusing to compromise, which is what every successful negotiation needs. Their longer response today should be very interesting. A deal is theoretically possible, but it is far more likely that they are going to try and point out all the flaws and loopholes in the latest offer.”

A response from the WGA is expected later on Wednesday.

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