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US writers officially on strike after WGA, AMPTP fail to reach agreement on new deal

The Writers Guild of America strike in 2007/08 (photo: Jengod via CC)

The first US writers’ strike in more than 15 years is official after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to reach an agreement by the end of Monday, May 1, when their previous deal expired.

Last night, the board of directors for the WGA West and the Council of the WGA East said they had “voted unanimously to call a strike” effective 00:01 on Tuesday, May 2.

“Though our negotiating committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, the studios’ responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing,” said the WGA.

“The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing.”

According to the WGA, its proposals would gain writers approximately US$429m per year, while it said AMPTP’s offer equates to approximately US$86m annually, 48% of which is from the minimums increase.

As early as Sunday night, the guild had advised its members to be ready to begin picketing this afternoon in the event that talks were unsuccessful. At press time, it had not been confirmed where picketing would begin. However, a survey sent out by the guild over the weekend had suggested studios and offices for all the major AMPTP members including Netflix’s Hollywood office, the Warner Bros and Universal studio lots and Amazon’s Culver City studio.

The AMPTP, which represents the studios in labour negotiations, issued a statement an hour prior, at around 20.00 Pacific Time on Monday, saying that negotiations had “concluded without an agreement today.”

AMPTP claimed it had presented a “comprehensive package proposal” to the WGA, including “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals.”

In addition, the AMPTP said it had indicated to the WGA that it is prepared to improve its offer, but is unwilling to do so “because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to insist upon.”

According to AMPTP, which represents companies including Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros Discovery, Paramount Global, Fox and Sony, primary sticking points include ‘mandatory staffing’ and ‘duration of employment.’

AMPTP concluded that its member companies remain committed to striking a deal that is “mutually beneficial” and that it is willing to engage in further discussions with the WGA.

With a strike being officially called, the question becomes how long the strike will last, and whether the two sides will return swiftly to the bargaining table to reopen negotiations.

The writers’ strike is expected to impact different shows in different ways. US late-night shows, for example, will likely face the most immediate impact, with all of those expected to go dark almost instantly.

Many scripted series using WGA writers (including in Canada) are also expected to be forced to halt production. However, many productions have been preparing for the possibility of a strike for months and seem committed to attempting to keep cameras rolling.

Negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP commenced on March 20, meaning the two sides had around seven weeks to agree a new deal and avoid a strike. However, the word coming out of those negotiations has consistently been that they have been unproductive and both sides continue to be far apart.

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