The Writers Guild of America and Hollywood’s TV and movies producers have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract covering feature films and primetime television.
The deal was confirmed by insiders Wednesday morning, after the two sides spent Tuesday and much of the night at the bargaining table. The pact is subject to approval by the WGA West board and the WGA East council and would then be submitted to the membership for ratification. It would replace the current agreement between the writers and the Alliance for Motion Picture and Television Producers that expires on May 30.
No details were immediately available, but the contract’s wages and benefits package is likely to resemble the pact that the Directors Guild of America signed off on earlier this year, which called for 3 percent annual raises.
The two sides had resumed bargaining Monday after the talks were suspended for two weeks. The structure of an agreement was in place at that point, but the two sides broke off bargaining to work separately on issues surrounding “exclusivity” clauses on TV projects. The writers wanted more freedom to seek other work when shows go on hiatus — which happens more frequently today since many programs, particularly on cable, have shorter seasons.
The talks began on Feb. 3, and the two sides took a two-week break for scheduling reasons on Feb. 15. They returned to the bargaining table on March 4. Then, on March 13, the two sides recessed again to find common ground on the TV exclusivity issues.
The last contract talks between the WGA and the producers in 2011 lasted a little more than two weeks. Those came after the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild has already signed off on deals, however.
Those agreements made it tougher for the writers to achieve more at the bargaining table without the threat of a strike. And with the memory of the bitter and divisive 100-day work stoppage of 2008 that devastated Hollywood still fresh in most members’ minds, that was a long shot. The tanking U.S. economy during that period didn’t help, either.
This year, only the DGA had made a deal. In January, its members ratified their new contract, which includes proposed increases in wages, residuals and significant new pay terms for work in new media.
Both sides in the writers talks enforced a de facto news blackout since negotiations began, and the talks have been free of heated public rhetoric that had marked previous bargaining in previous years.
The only blip came prior to the start of bargaining, when two WGA negotiators sent a letter to the union’s members charging that the studios and networks were seeking $60 million in rollbacks, which the AMPTP didn’t respond to.
The talks were held at the AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks, Calif. The 8,000-member WGA West and the 4,000-member WGA East negotiated the pact jointly.
With the WGA bargaining concluded, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are expected to open talks on a new deal soon. Their current contract expires June 30, but not date has been set for the start of negotiations.