WGA Director Blasts ‘Despicable’ AMPTP in Conflict Over Guild’s Health Plan

Contract negotiations set for May 11 may be thrown into uncertainty after latest exchange

Last Updated: April 23, 2020 @ 12:59 PM

Planned contract negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers may be thrown into uncertainty after a terse email exchange in which WGA Executive Director David Young called the AMPTP “despicable,” seemingly over a dispute concerning the guild’s health plan.

This past Saturday, the AMPTP announced that it had approved a start date for new contract negotiations with the WGA on May 11 with a provision that both sides exchange proposals on May 1, agreeing to a time table proposed last week by Young and the guild’s negotiating team. The talks were set to take place in March but had been postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Along with agreeing to the timetable, AMPTP President Carol Lombardini responded to Young’s proposal that the WGA Health Fund extend eligibility through the end of the year to participants who can no longer meet the required earnings threshold. Lombardini said that she would have to discuss the extension with AMPTP’s member studios before she could respond.

Young replied with a two-sentence message: “There will be an agreement when both sides agree there’s one. You people are despicable.”

Lombardini responded in an email asking for clarification.

“You give no reason or context for this ad hominem attack. We can only assume that you are upset that the AMPTP did not immediately agree to your separate request that the Producer-WGA Health Plan eligibility provisions be amended to extend eligibility for anyone who does not meet the eligibility requirements,” she wrote. “While we are willing to consider this issue as part of our negotiations, this is an issue, as you are well aware, that ultimately must be decided by the Trustees of the Plan after looking at the financial implications to the Plan as well as a number of other issues regarding who should be eligible for such an extension.”

Lombardini also wrote that extending the health plan in response to the coronavirus pandemic is “separate” from the issue of agreeing to a new contract as soon as possible.

“It is critical to get the negotiations started both because of the impending expiration date and so that when it is time to resume production, the industry is in a position to do so immediately, without concern that another shutdown might be imminent due to the absence of a contract and the possibility of a strike.”

In a statement to TheWrap, WGA West President David A. Goodman urged the AMPTP to approve the health fund extension, saying that the fund “has sufficient reserves to cover this contingency.” The guild did not say whether the health fund dispute has changed its plans to begin contract talks with the AMPTP next month.

“The extension is the right thing to do, and writers’ employers should not have to think twice about ensuring that the people who have made their businesses successful have access to quality, uninterrupted healthcare,” the statement read.

A spokesperson for the AMPTP declined to comment.