After three straight days of talks, contract negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers may go down to the wire.
Individuals with knowledge of the situation have told TheWrap that talks will likely continue through the weekend, and may even go beyond the May 1st deadline should both sides agree they are close to making a deal.
Extensions of talks in labor negotiations are common — In 2014 for instance, SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood producers agreed to a 24-hour extension less than an hour before the existing pact ran out in order to prolong negotiations and avoid a strike.
The current contract for film and TV writers expires on May 1. WGA and AMPTP began negotiating a new contract in early March, but those talks were discontinued March 24 when agreement could not be reached, and the WGA’s negotiating committee called for a strike authorization vote. On April 25, members overwhelmingly voted in favor of striking if an agreement cannot be reached, and the WGA returned to the negotiating table the same day.
Following the strike authorization vote, the WGA wrote to members that it is “determined to achieve a fair contract.” The AMPTP echoed that sentiment in a follow up statement, writing that they are also “committed to reaching a deal.”
Among the demands are increased compensations, stronger economic and workplace protections, and paid family leave for writers.
The main point of contention cited by the writers guild is that “the average pay for writer-producers working in television declined 23 percent over the last two years alone,” although they still do the same amount of work as before, according to a letter guild leaders sent WGA members in February. The letter said the decline is “driven by the growth of short order series with 13 or fewer episodes…” and writers “often work just as many weeks on a short order series as they did on a traditional 22-episode series, but are paid fewer episodes.”
A strike would begin on May 2, and would have an immediate effect on late-night talk shows and “Saturday Night Live,” which is set to return with a new episode on May 6. Earlier this month, the WGAW sent AT&T and Time Warner Cable shareholders a letter, warning them of the impact a strike could have on both earnings and the pending merger between the two.
Representatives for the AMPTP and WGA could not be reached for comment, as they are in a media blackout.