WGA STRIKE UPDATE: WGA Wants to Deal with Individual Companies


Writers Guild of America

Saturday informed its members that it will try to negotiate with the individual companies that make up the

Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers

. The AMPTP quickly shot back at the WGA, saying that it was “grasping at straws.”

While both sides inevitably will do what they can to bust up the other’s alliance, by all accounts, it is significantly too early in the process for that to take place.

In its Saturday missive, the WGA told members that “bargaining on a multiemployer basis through the AMPTP is an option for the WGA, not a legal requirement. Each signatory employer is required to bargain with us individually if we make a legal demand that it do so.”

The WGA said it will do so Monday.

The AMPTP’s statement claimed that the WGA’s latest move is “merely the latest indication that the WGA organizers are grasping for straws and have never had a coherent strategy for engaging in serious negotiations. The AMPTP may have different companies with different assets in different businesses, but they are all unified in one common goal -- to reach an agreement with writers that positions everyone in our industry for success in a rapidly changing marketplace."

On Sunday, the AMPTP made an effort to proclaim the solidarity of its member companies by designing an advertisement signed by the chiefs of the eight biggest companies. The ad, now on the AMPTP's Web site, reads: “Different assets ... different businesses ... different companies ... one common goal. To reach a fair and just agreement with writers and get back to work.”

The weekend war of words came on the heels of a busy Thursday that witnessed the Directors Guild of America saying that it is ready to open talks with the AMPTP in early 2008, while the WGA filed charges against the AMPTP with the National Labor Relations Board for refusing to bargain in good faith.

The DGA said Thursday that it wants to open talks with the AMPTP about a new deal, but it will not begin negotiations until after the New Year.

A Thursday statement from DGA president Michael Apted and negotiations-committee chair Gil Cates said they will hold off on opening talks because they want “to give the WGA and the AMPTP more time to return to the negotiating table to conclude an agreement.”

The statement further said talks will open “only if an appropriate basis for negotiations can be established.”

It has been long expected that the AMPTP would try to get a pre-emptive deal done with the DGA in hopes of putting pressure on the WGA to then cut a subsequent deal.

The WGA said Thursday that the DGA “has to do what is best for its membership, and we will do what is best for ours. We wish them well, but they do not represent writers. Our strike will end when the companies return to negotiations and make a fair deal with the WGA.”

The AMPTP released a statement Thursday saying that while it looks forward to opening talks with the DGA “in an atmosphere of professionalism and respect,” it doesn’t expect a cake walk.

“But no one should be under any illusions: This will still be an extremely difficult process,” the statement read. “All of us -- producers, directors, writers and everyone working in the entertainment business -- need to get this right because in the rapidly evolving new-media marketplace, there is little margin for error. We must work in partnership to create a modern economic system that fairly shares the benefits of progress while providing opportunity for the kind of innovation and flexibility we all need to succeed.”

The DGA said in its statement that it was “deeply disappointed” with the unraveling of talks between the WGA and AMPTP, calling the situation “dire.”

The organization said that while it has a long history of early negotiations, it held off for the past two months out of respect for the WGA. The current deal ends June 30.

But now, it added, with “so much at stake and no end to the standoff in sight, we can no longer abdicate our responsibility to our own members. If that’s the case, then the DGA will commence formal talks in the hope that a fresh perspective and the additional pressure we can bring to bear will help to force the AMPTP to settle the issues before us in a fair and reasonable manner.”

Later Thursday, the WGA said it filed charges with the NLRB “against the AMPTP for its refusal to bargain in good faith with the WGA. It is a clear violation of federal law for the AMPTP to issue an ultimatum and break off negotiations if we fail to cave to their illegal demands.”

The WGA, in a statement, said, “We are in the midst of the holiday season, with thousands of our members and the membership of other unions out of work. It is the height of irresponsibility and intransigence for the AMPTP to refuse to negotiate a fair agreement with the WGA. We reiterate our demand that the AMPTP immediately return to the negotiations, rather than going on vacation, so that this town can be put back to work.”

In response, the AMPTP said the WGA “has now been reduced to pounding the table."

“The WGA's filing of a complaint with the NLRB reminds us of the old lawyers' adage: When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When the law is on your side, argue the law. And when you don't have either the law or the facts on your side, you pound the table,” the AMPTP shot back in a statement. “The WGA has now been reduced to pounding the table, and this baseless, desperate NLRB complaint is just the latest indication that the WGA's negotiating strategy has achieved nothing for working writers.”

For full coverage of the strike, click here.