The Writers Guild of America has confirmed to its members in a new memo that talks for a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have been indefinitely delayed by the coronavirus and that a strike vote will not be immediately sent out if talks can’t begin by the time the existing contract expires on May 1.
“Given the current health crisis we cannot effectively negotiate this important three-year agreement in our usual fashion,” the guild’s negotiating committee wrote in an email. “It may not be possible to conclude a new contract by May 1st, nor will we be asking you for a strike authorization vote in the interim. Even if no new contract is in place by May 1st, writers can continue working under the 2017 agreement.”
The WGA says that they are currently in talks with the AMPTP about extending the expiration date of the current contract, though that exact date is still up in the air. One date considered by AMPTP is June 30, the current expiration date for its contract with SAG-AFTRA. However, with no one sure when the still rising pandemic will end, it is unclear when negotiations, which involve dozens of participants between both sides, will be able to commence.
“This is not a time for rash decisions or pressured outcomes,” said the Guild. “Instead we are conferring with public health authorities, financial analysts, other guilds and unions, legislators, benefit fund experts and others to gather information as the situation continues to evolve.”
The AMPTP reached a deal for a new contract with the Directors Guild of America just one week before the spreading pandemic shut down businesses throughout Hollywood on orders from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The deal included a 3% increase in basic wages as well as stronger residuals for projects made for streaming, an issue that was expected to be a major one in talks with WGA and SAG-AFTRA.
But whenever negotiations for those two guilds begin, they will come under far different circumstances than have long been expected as the widespread economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic will have an impact on Hollywood studios as well. The WGA especially was hoping to use the new wave of streaming services such as Disney+ and HBO Max as a source of leverage as those new platforms will create demand for dozens of exclusive shows to boost subscription numbers. However, the economic downturn may make studios more reluctant to meet the asking price the guild will be pushing for.