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WGA blasts ‘union-busting tactics’ as studios issue ultimatums to showrunners

A WGA strike rally in Century City, LA in 2007 (photo: Jengod via CC)

US studios including Disney and Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) have sent letters to showrunners notifying them that they are required to continue performing their regular working duties despite the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike.

“We want specifically to reiterate to you as a showrunner or other writer-producer that you are not excused from performing your duties as a showrunner and/or producer on your series as a result of the WGA strike,” read a letter sent by Disney’s ABC Signature to showrunners it works with.

“Your personal services agreement with [the] studio requires that you perform your showrunner and/or producing duties even if the WGA attempts to fine you for performing such services during the strike.

“Your duties as a showrunner and/or producer are not excused, suspended or terminated until and unless you are so notified in writing by the studio.”

The letter from ABC Signature also includes a list of “non-writing services” – typically referred to as ‘A through H services’ – that it said showrunners are still expected to perform during a strike.

Those include “casual minor adjustments in dialogue or narration made prior to or during the period of principal photography”; cutting down scripts for time reasons; and “instructions, directions or suggestions, whether oral or written, made to [a] writer regarding story or screenplay.”

In the normal course of business, showrunners are permitted to perform all of those duties under their WGA contracts. However, during a strike, the WGA strictly forbids its members from doing any of these things.

The WGA retorted to the ABC Signature letter by saying: “It is shameful that Disney, which has grown its business on unionised labor, is resorting to familiar union-busting tactics.”

The union added: “The so-called ‘A through H’ duties are specifically defined in the guild contract as writing services and therefore constitute struck work that guild members are prohibited from doing during a work stoppage.”

WBD sent a similar note to showrunners and writer-producers working on HBO and HBO Max projects. “If you are a WGA member, HBO/HBO Max respects your membership in the WGA, and we will not do anything to place you in jeopardy of WGA rules,” read the letter.

“However, we believe certain services, such as participating in the cast process and/or contributing to non-writing production, and post-production work are clear examples of non-WGA required services that should continue to be rendered during this time.”

The HBO and HBO Max letter went one step further than Disney’s, spelling out to showrunners that “if production is interrupted by the strike, even if you offer to continue to work, HBO/HBO Max will not be obliged to continue your salary, nor the salary of the cast and crew.”

It is expected that, in one form or another, all studios within the AMPTP will send similar directives to showrunners and writer-producers on their shows.

The situation has put writer-producers in an awkward position, with their employers insisting they perform their existing producorial duties while, at the same time, the WGA’s strike ruleset banning those same producorial duties.

This comes after a wholly chaotic week in LA and New York after the WGA called for its first strike in more than 15 years, closing down late-night shows and disrupting a growing list of high-profile scripted shows including Netflix’s Stranger Things, Apple TV+’s Severance, HBO Max comedy Hacks and Showtime’s Billions.


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