The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) president Carol Lombardini has agreed to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) executive director David Young’s proposal to begin negotiations on a new contract May 11.
The two sides are hoping to reach terms to extend the 2017 Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement. Young sent a letter to Lombardini earlier on Friday suggesting they exchange proposals by May 1 with negotiations scheduled to begin via teleconferencing during the week of May 11.
“Since these negotiations will be conducted in an unusual manner, kindly call me at your convenience so that we may discuss the details surrounding the conduct of the upcoming negotiations,” Lombardini replied in a letter, which was obtained by TheWrap.
The talks are now set to begin nearly two months after the original start date of March 23. Like all other Hollywood businesses, the talks were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which made it impossible to hold the lengthy negotiation meetings in person because of social distancing directives.
In response to the pandemic, the WGA has called on its health fund to extend eligibility through the end of the year to members on the guild’s health plan who no longer can meet the earnings requirements to stay on the plan because they lost potential writing jobs to production shutdowns. The pandemic was noted repeatedly in Young’s letter, including in explaining the guild’s delayed response to AMPTP.
“I will need to have further internal discussions with regard to the entirely separate matter of writers’ health coverage which you referenced in your letter and will respond once those discussions have concluded,” Lombardini wrote. “In the meantime, I look forward to starting what will hopefully be a productive and successful negotiation.”
The AMPTP has already negotiated a new contract with the Directors Guild of America, which ratified it last month. The new contract includes a substantial increase in residuals for streaming TV series, a topic that is expected to be a major element of talks with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. But the pandemic and its accompanying economic downturn have changed the situation for the WGA’s negotiating committee, as Hollywood’s shutdown is expected to make it difficult for the guild to call a strike. The WGA promised when the contract talks were first postponed that it would not seek a strike authorization after the contract’s initial May 1 expiration date.