We've Got Hollywood Covered

ATA Insists It Is Not Withdrawing From WGA Negotiations in New Letter

"All we require is the WGA's commitment that we are working toward the same goal," say Hollywood agencies

On Wednesday, the Association of Talent Agents said it is not planning end talks with the Writers Guild of America over package fees, and called for a new round of negotiations.

"ATA, on behalf of each and every member agency, remains ready, willing, and able to meet with WGA leadership and members at any time, and is prepared to engage with a full set of responses and counter proposals," wrote ATA Executive Director Karen Stuart in a statement Wednesday night. "All we require is the WGA's commitment that we are working toward the same goal."

The statement comes in response to a letter earlier Wednesday in which WGA West president David A. Goodman told guild members that talks had reached an impasse, and that "I now expect [ATA] to break off talks."

In response to ATA's new statement disputing that assertion, WGA Presidents David A. Goodman and David Young sent a joint reply also expressing their willingness to negotiate, while emphasizing that a set of counter-proposals is necessary for talks to move forward.

"Although ours is not technically a labor negotiation, we intend and promise to continue to negotiate in good faith, as that term is defined in American labor law: 'To meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith with respect to . . . the negotiation of an agreement . . . but such obligation does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or require the making of a concession,'"read the reply.

WGA continues to push for the complete removal of packaging fees from the Hollywood agency system, arguing that it has the right to enforce a new Code of Conduct requiring agencies to remove those fees in order to represent guild members.

"Our agents work for us. Every dollar they make must be generated as a percentage of the money we make," read a recent WGA statement.

"Agency-based studios and packaging fees make a mockery of that and are in violation of the agencies' ethical and legal obligations to writers. We have taken too long to demand that these practices end. But the persistence of a corrupt system does not make it right."

The WGA plans to hold a member vote on March 25 on whether the guild should be authorized to enforce the new Code of Conduct. If it passes, the WGA plans to enforce it on April 7 and is asking its members to fire their agents if their agencies will not comply with removing packaging fees.

Guild members who spoke with TheWrap anonymously say they are skeptical that writers will actually be willing to stage such a mass exodus from agencies, but the WGA has compiled accounts from other members who are disgruntled with the packaging fee system and want change.

The ATA, meanwhile, insists that it is ready at any time to negotiate in good faith with the WGA, but that its member agencies will not agree to remove packaging fees under any circumstance.