In a new letter sent on Wednesday to its members, the Association of Talent Agents again accused the Writers Guild of America of not bargaining “in good faith” in recent negotiations and criticized the plan that the guild sent to its members in the event that an agreement between the two sides is not met.
“The WGA has a standard negotiating practice and it is clear they will not bargain in good faith until the clock runs down,” the statement from ATA executive director Karen Stuart read. Stuart is referring to the April 6 expiration date of the current agreement between the WGA and ATA.
Starting today and continuing through Sunday, WGA members will vote on whether to approve a Code of Conduct that would require agencies to eliminate package fees in order to represent them. If passed, guild members would be expected to immediately fire any agent or agency that doesn’t agree to comply with the code when it takes effect on April 7.
In place of agents, WGA plans to launch a database that would allow producers and studios to post writers room openings and for writers to present their work. The WGA is also calling on managers and attorneys for writers to assist in negotiating overscale pay in place of agents, arguing the guild has the legal ground to delegate such authority to them through the National Labor Relations Act. The ATA, meanwhile, is challenging that claim.
“Writers count on agents to get them their next job and thoughtfully guide their career trajectory. A website cannot do this. It is illegal for lawyers and managers to do this,” Stuart wrote.
“This is going to hurt writers who are not in deals, don’t have their next job, and who have been historically underrepresented in our industry.”
The statement repeats many of the talking points made by ATA over the past several weeks, the most prominent being that the proposals the ATA has brought forward to ensure transparency between agents and their writer clients while offering them more control over how their work is presented and sold to studios. The WGA, meanwhile, says that attempts to offer individual choice to writers are an attempt by agencies to undermine the guild’s collective bargaining power.
In its action plan, the WGA acknowledged that there is no direct substitute for agents, but called on writers to show solidarity with each other through the upcoming TV staffing season.
“Our industry will not grind to a halt,” read the guild’s statement to members. “Studios and producers will still need writers. Writers on staff and working on projects will still go to work. Feature scripts will still get sold, and TV shows will still get staffed. Our ideas and our words will still have enormous value, and the work we all love to do will continue.”