U.K. Writers Told They Can Work on Pre-Existing Streamer Projects But Can’t Secure New Work During WGA Strike

After several writers told Variety they’ve been frustrated about the lack of clarity around the rules for projects set up with the U.K. branches of “struck” companies like Disney or Netflix, but aren’t covered by WGA terms, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has attempted to clarify the rules of play.

On Thursday, the WGGB emailed members and provided an update on its website FAQ section, and all signs seem to indicate that “pre-existing” projects can continue, but new work by writers for the U.K. subsidiaries of “struck” companies will be discouraged.

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One question says: “I am currently partway through a series/contract with a U.K.-based U.S. producer who is a WGA MBA signatory company — what should I do?”

The WGGB response reads: “If your contract was made under U.K. law and you were already under contract at the time the strike was called, you should continue to work normally and comply with the terms of your contract. Pre-existing work in the U.K. is not considered struck work by the WGA.”

The WGGB has also updated its definition of what constitutes a “struck” company as such: “Streaming companies such as Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Apple are all considered to be struck companies in the U.S. Before taking new work with any of these companies or any U.K. company allied to a U.S. company, you should contact the WGGB for advice.”

The new rules effectively rule out British writers taking on any new contracts for the U.K. subsidiaries of companies like Netflix, Disney or Apple during the strike.

For WGA members in the U.K. looking to work on writing projects in the U.K. outside WGA jurisdiction, the WGGB advises that such a writer “can continue to work on projects under WGGB agreements as long as these projects are not considered to be struck. Any work that would have been completed under the MBA is considered struck work.”

For any U.K. writer — WGA member or not — looking to work on a new project based in the U.K. with a U.S. company, including development projects, the WGGB says that “if the U.S. company is a signatory to the MBA agreement, for the duration of a strike these companies count as ‘struck’ companies. WGA members in the U.K. are not permitted to take work with ‘struck’ companies under the WGA Strike Rules.”

Those who aren’t WGA members are reminded of the American union’s Rule 13, which threatens blacklisting in the future if they accept work during the strike.

What may be most confusing for some British scribes, however, is an additional detail that notes “while there is nothing to stop non-WGA members in the U.K. working for non-signatories during the strike, we would advise WGGB members to seek advice from [the WGGB].”

As multi-national businesses like Netflix and Disney have grown their local productions in recent years, many British writers who are also WGA members have ended up working for their U.K. subsidiaries under WGGB terms rather than WGA terms. Since strike action was called earlier this week, many have faced pressure to walk away.

“International members haven’t had any say in the WGA strike and we’re not allowed to strike because our union hasn’t voted to strike,” said one up-and-coming writer on Wednesday. “But if we have a contract and [a ‘struck’ company is involved], but it’s based in the U.K., am I breaching my contract if I act in solidarity? We’ve been made to feel like scabs.”

The updated guidance — which is the result of “very positive” negotiations with the WGA, as per a WGGB email — provide some clarity on the rules of play for British writers, but for many writers still prompts wider questions about the fairness of supporting strike action for international projects that aren’t governed by WGA rules.

The WGGB was quick to throw its full support behind the WGA on Tuesday, instructing its 3,000-odd membership to halt work on projects within the jurisdiction of the American union.

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