Four days before the Writers Guild is to begin negotiations with Hollywood’s movie studios and TV networks, the co-chairs of of the guild negotiating team say the producers are seeking $60 million in rollbacks.
“Last Thursday the WGA received a set of opening proposals from the AMPTP for our upcoming negotiations. They included 60 million dollars in rollbacks for writers, 32 million of that coming from our health plan,” Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray wrote to members.
“But it doesn’t stop there,” the letter continued. “Other proposals targeted screenplay minimums (11 million dollar rollback), TV residuals, and our Pension Plan.”
The timing and inflammatory tone of the letter is somewhat surprising, and neither the guild nor the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers would comment Thursday.
The two sides are to open talks at AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks Monday morning. Typically the two sides exchange opening proposals ahead of the talks as a practical courtesy.
“These proposed rollbacks for writers come at a time of unprecedented prosperity for the studios. The collective profits of our 6 major bargaining partners (Disney, CBS, Comcast, Fox, Time Warner and Viacom) just hit a record $40 billion. This prosperity is based on our work, we are the creative force driving it. Are $60 million in rollbacks a just reward?” the letter asks.
While the letter sounds the alarm, the studios’ recent deal with the Directors Guild – which has historically served at least to a degree as a template for its deals with Hollywood’s other unions — suggests the studios will take a more conciliatory stance.
The DGA went first in the current round of negotiations and reached a deal in November. Earlier this month its members ratified the contract, which calls for annual 3 percent raises, higher residuals bases; first-time terms and conditions for high-budget new media made for subscription video like Netflix and the establishment of a formal diversity program at the major TV studios.
The WGA’s current deal with the AMPTP expires on May 1.