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Writers Issue Contract Demands

With their contract set to expire Oct. 31, the West and East coast branches of the Writers Guild of America have asked their members to ratify bargaining positions that could result in strike-provoking contract negotiations with Hollywood.

Talks with theAlliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) are set to start July 16.

Their “pattern of demands,” formalizing many longstanding issues, come on the heels of the networks just-concluded upfront schedule presentations in New York.

The networks announced that they are loading up on an unusually heavy menu of seven “non-fiction” series for next season amid hints of strike preparations for a writers’ strike.

WGA’s list includes the hot-button guild issues of “fair” compensation for Web and non-traditional media; expanded coverage over reality and animation; and greater DVD and videocassette residuals.

Not surprisingly, the two unions also want studios and producers to address production integration, another issue at the forefront of their common agendas.

The WGA has been coordinating its bargaining strategy with other Hollywood unions whose contracts expire next June. The Screen Actors Guild is considered to be most closely aligned with the WGA, while the Directors Guild of America has taken a more moderate—and quiet—approach.

With the ratification, the guilds will have capped a year of what they call “unprecedented interaction and dialogue” with WGA members on both coasts.

Leading up to the negotiations, they have toned down their rhetoric, which earlier included loud protests and interrupting industry events to pass out leaflets.

“It is reasonable to expect that we will defend our income, based on royalty models the companies have endorsed in the past,” said John F. Bowman, chairman of the WGA’s negotiating committee. “If they get paid, we get paid. If they don't, we don't. This strikes me as perfectly reasonable. It's sane. We expect the companies to negotiate in similar good faith.”