News

WGA Contract Talks to Resume

November 19, 2007

James Hibbard reports:

 

The Writers Guild of America will resume contract negotiations with network and studio representatives on Nov. 26.

After 12 days away from the table, both sides have agreed to restart talks under a media blackout.

"Leaders from the [Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers] and the WGA have mutually agreed to resume formal negotiations on November 26," read a statement issued by both parties. "No other details or press statements will be issued."

The WGA is still on strike and plans to continue its picketing and rallies, though the guild has an abridged schedule next week due to Thanksgiving.

In a letter sent to WGA members, guild president Patric Verrone wrote "...we have proven that bad news won't slow us down. Now it is equally important that we now prove that good news won't slow us down, either. We must remember that returning to the bargaining table is only a start. Our work is not done until we achieve a good contract and that is by no means assured. Accordingly, what we achieve in negotiations will be a direct result of how successfully we can keep up our determination and resolve."

Verrone states that return to the bargaining table "is the direct result of the hours you have spent on the picket lines, the days you've spent educating friends and colleagues, the boundless energy you've put into engaging with not only the Hollywood talent community, but people all over the country and the world."

The unexpected announcement comes after a series of dramatic recent events that seem almost, well, scripted-from contract talks breaking down just as strikers hit the streets in New York City, to showrunners picketing their own programs, to popular series shutting down production, to a succession of large protest rallies.

Studios and writers likely hope for a similarly cinematic final act, with a new contract signed just in time for the December holidays. But if there's one recurring theme in the narrative of the WGA negotiations, it's that writers and their employers keeping coming together at the negotiation table ... only to fall back apart.

After writers went on strike during the early hours of Nov. 5, the AMPTP expressed disinterest in resuming talks and said they were prepared for a long siege. WGA leaders have maintained they want to return to the table, but need the AMPTP to show flexibility on the key issue of online residuals.

The WGA camp believes a couple factors have been instrumental in putting pressure on their employers. First, most showrunners have refused to work in any capacity-effectively shutting down the production of many primetime series faster than studios had expected. Second, the guild has waged an effective post-strike media campaign; staging well-attended rallies and tapping likeable personalities get the public on their side, as polls showed earlier this week.