Writers Guild Strike Averted

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The writers strike that could have begun this past Tuesday has been narrowly averted. Fortunately, Hollywood’s steady flow of scripts will not be stopped. Although the marathon negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers remained rocky up until the final hours of the previous contract’s deadline, the two sides reached a three-year tentative agreement in the knick of time.

Gains for the writers include increased studio contributions to WGA members’ health plan, and a new definition for short-order TV series that will pay writers more for episodes that take longer than 2.4 weeks to produce. Additionally, the deal includes job protections for members on parental leave.

According to Variety, an exhausted WGA West executive director David Young summed up the deal saying it was “the art of the possible.”  He continued, “We did the best we could. It’s got some important new things in it, and an important old thing: the health plan has been taken care of.”

WGA and AMPTP, which represents TV networks and movie studios, began negotiating a new contract in early March; but, when no agreements could be reached, the talks were discontinued March 24. On April 25, WGA members overwhelmingly voted in favor of striking if an agreement couldn’t be reached. However, they resumed negotiations that same day. The WGA sought to more fairly compensate writers, arguing, “In a time of unprecedented demand, TV writers are, illogically, earning less.”

After reaching an agreement, the guild’s memo to its members stated:

Your Negotiating Committee is pleased to report that we have reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP that we can recommend for ratification.

In it, we made gains in minimums across the board – as well as contribution increases to our Health Plan that should ensure its solvency for years to come. And we further expanded our protections in Options and Exclusivity.

We also made unprecedented gains on the issue of short seasons in television, winning a definition (which has never before existed in our MBA) of 2.4 weeks of work for each episodic fee. Any work beyond that span will now require additional payment for hundreds of writer-producers.

We won a 15% increase in Pay TV residuals, roughly $15 million in increases in High-Budget SVOD residuals, and, for the first time ever, residuals for comedy-variety writers in Pay TV.

And, also for the first time ever, job protection on Parental Leave.

Did we get everything we wanted? No. Everything we deserve? Certainly not. But because we had the near-unanimous backing of you and your fellow writers, we were able to achieve a deal that will net this Guild’s members $130 million more, over the life of the contract, than the pattern we were expected to accept.

That result, and that resolve, is a testament to you, your courage, and your faith in us as your representatives.

We will, of course, provide more details in the next few days. But until then, we just wanted to thank you – and congratulate you. Your voices were indeed heard.

Now, as long as the agreement is ratified, Hollywood can freely continue creating new content.

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