With its contract set to expire Halloween, the union that represents TV writers Monday asked its members to authorize a strike if a new deal can’t be struck with producers and studios.
In a letter to members, the Writers Guild of America is seeking a vote to authorize the WGA West Board and the WGA East Council to call a strike. The request is coming just days before talks with producers are set to resume.
The WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are scheduled to sit down at the negotiating table again Thursday, as their contract expires Oct. 31.
“At stake are serious issues that affect writers, including coverage of writing for the Internet, cell phones and other new media; residuals for reuse on new media; the home video [DVD] residuals formula; and Guild coverage of animation and reality,” the letter said. “Because the stakes are so high, it is necessary to empower your negotiators with the tools needed to make the best possible deal.”
During the summer, the union and producers swapped proposals for their potential contract, with no agreement on those terms.
The producers have essentially sought a major overhaul of the system of residuals, the fees that writers and other talent are paid when a show is reused.
In Monday’s letter, the WGA alleges that since talks started July 16, producers and studios “have refused to engage in serious negotiations.”
The WGA told members in its letter that the AMPTP had rejected each of its proposals, and responded with “32-pages of draconian rollbacks that would eviscerate virtually every gain that the writers have made in 50 years … the companies’ proposal would effectively eliminate residuals, separated rights and credits as we know them, and the leave the WGA without coverage of product written for new media.”
The producers and studios this summer argued that they should only fork over residuals after they have recouped their investment in a TV show or movie.
In response to the strike vote, AMPTP president Nick Counter Monday issued the following statement:
“A strike authorization vote is a routine procedure that unions frequently take in the course of negotiations,” Counter said. “The Writers Guild’s strike authorization is notable only because its negotiators seem intent on striking without seriously addressing the AMPTP’s proposals, and with no regard for the devastating impact on their members, fellow unions and this industry.
WGA’s leadership is pursuing this reckless strategy by misleading the membership about our proposals. We offered to jointly monitor, study and experiment with all forms of new media. The WGA rejected this sensible approach, forcing us to address the serious challenges facing our industry. We will do what must be done to keep our businesses sustainable, competitive and healthy.
We are committed and prepared to make a fair deal with the WGA, but at this point the WGA is not of the same mind.”