The Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted 7,882 to 392 to implement an Agency Code of Conduct, “if and when it becomes advisable to do so” when the current AMBA agreement expires on April 6.
That equates to an overwhelming 95 percent of votes in favor of new rules that require talent agencies to eliminate packaging fees in order to represent WGA members. Should the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents fail to reach an agreement this week, the Code will be enforced on April 7, with the guild calling on its members to leave any agency that does not adhere to the new requirements.
The vote sets up a critical week for the writer-agency dispute that has prompted heated public accusations and dueling industry studies from both sides but little progress towards an agreement. The WGA has called packaging fees a “conflict of interest” that separates what agents get paid for their work from the writer’s pay, which has failed to rise with inflation rates beyond high-profile writers and showrunners.
The guild wants agencies to return to receiving a 10 percent commission fee based on writer pay, and is also demanding that Hollywood’s two largest agencies, WME and CAA, withdraw their stake in affiliated production studios, saying they too are a conflict of interest, as agents could end up making a deal with studios their employers own.
The ATA, meanwhile, is insistent that packaging fees are necessary to agencies’ business model, with the United Talent Agency releasing a report disputed by WGA that states that average writer pay is higher for packaged projects than non-packaged ones.
“Now that the WGA is past its vote, we look forward to getting back into the room to work through an agreement that serves the best interest of writers, respects their individual choice, and prevents unnecessary disruption to our industry,” read ATA’s statement on Sunday. “We stand ready and waiting.”
The WGA and ATA have met seven times over the past few weeks, and none of the meetings have led to any progress on the key issues of packaging fees and affiliated production companies. Like the WGA, ATA members have dug their heels on the matter, with the Association saying publicly that over 100 member agencies have pledged to not adhere to the Code of Conduct’s requirement to remove packaging fees.
Read the full statement from the WGA-Agency Agreement Negotiating Committee below.
Dear WGA Members,
Thank you to everyone who participated in the vote on the WGA Agency Code of Conduct resolution, which concluded this morning.
On the question:
“Do you authorize the Board and Council to implement an Agency Code of Conduct, if and when it becomes advisable to do so, upon expiration of the current AMBA on April 6, 2019?”
7,882 voted YES (95.3%)
392 voted NO (4.7%)
WGA-Agency Agreement Negotiating Committee