AMPTP, WGA Exchange More Harsh Words

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The rhetorical war between Hollywood producers and the labor unions for writers and actors is escalating, with the Alliance for Motion Picture and Television Producers accusing the Writers Guild of America of "poisoning the atmosphere" around a recent attempt at arbitration with the Screen Actors Guild.

On the eve of that mediation, the WGA announced it would file a complaint against producers, alleging the AMPTP has not paid new media residuals that were key to a contract agreement reached last spring. New media formulas are also the stumbling block for a contract between producers and actors.

The WGA alleges that studios have yet to pay residuals to writers for content streamed or sold via the Internet. The WGA also asserted it understanding that the agreement was retroactive, covering Internet-delivered content produced since 1971. 

In a statement Dec. 1, the AMPTP alleges that the November statement by the WGA was "highly misleading." Some studios have paid for streaming under the new formula or will issue payments this week. The remaining studios are still working to program residual systems to recognize new compensation formulas, the trade group said. The AMPTP added that the WGA was informed of the progress but that the labor guild decided to go public for its own "partisan purposes."

The WGA countered that it had been trying for eight months to address the AMPTP's "erroneous" interpretation of the February contract to no avail. The WGA is now going to arbitration to "force compliance, and we expect to prevail," according to a statement from that union.

Meanwhile, SAG issued a statement in response to the full-page ad placed in the Los Angeles Times on Monday by the studio heads. That ad criticized SAG for seeking a contract with more benefits than those agreed to by 230,000 other entertainment professionals and craftsmen.

SAG said it wants what the Directors Guild of America got: a chance to negotiate specifically for its members.

"No other guild or union can negotiate a pattern deal that fits the industry and SAG members, anymore than ABC can negotiate license fees for NBC. No one has our proxy," according to the SAG statement. Needs of actors are different, not better, but different, the union added, so negotiators want to craft a pact that meets actors' "unique needs."

The AMPTP responded that SAG's statement "proves that SAG is now officially out of touch with reality." In 46 days of negotiations, SAG failed to justify why it deserves a better deal than the ones with six other Hollywood unions. The nation is in a recession, California had declared a fiscal emergency and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 690 points on Dec. 1, but SAG continues to demand more and more than everyone else, the AMPTP said.

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