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WGA, AMPTP Negotiations in Limbo After a Week of Public Sparring

Negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the major studios remained in limbo on Monday, after a week of public sparring failed to result in forward movement.

The sides have not formally met since Aug. 18, when the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers rejected the WGA’s Aug. 15 counter offer. Four CEOs did meet with a handful of WGA leaders on Aug. 22 to urge them to accept the studios’ counter, which was made on Aug. 11.

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But since then, there has been no move to get back to the negotiating table. As it stands, both sides seem to feel that the other owes them a response.

The AMPTP publicly released its counter on Aug. 22, in a move intended to demonstrate its readiness to make concessions and to put pressure on WGA leadership. The WGA objected to that tactic, saying it was intended to “jam” negotiators.

The union described the AMPTP offer as “neither nothing nor nearly enough,” and cited a host of limitations on several issues. For instance, the studios have offered a guaranteed rewrite for screenwriters, but only on “original” screenplays under a certain income threshold. That provision would apply to a “tiny” number of writers, according to the guild.

In its Aug. 15 response, the WGA largely stuck to its original demands, though it did make slight numerical adjustments on some items.

The WGA strike is now 119 days old, still a month shy of the two longest strikes in guild history, which took place in 1960 and 1988.

There is also no sign of a resumption of talks with SAG-AFTRA, which has been on strike for 46 days. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s executive director, told Variety last week that there have been some “back-channel” talks about how to get back to the table, but no formal communications with the AMPTP.

SAG-AFTRA told members in an email on Sunday that the negotiating committee is ready to return to the table “at a moment’s notice.”

“Unfortunately, as we’ve seen from the recent news out of the WGA negotiations, it appears the AMPTP is still unwilling to make the concessions necessary to make a fair deal that would bring the strikes to a close,” the union said.

SAG-AFTRA has faced significant internal pushback over its decision to grant “interim agreements” to independent producers. Such agreements allow productions to continue, despite the strike, if they agree to adhere to the union’s latest deal points. Some members believe the agreements undermine the solidarity of the strike.

In the message on Sunday, SAG-AFTRA urged members not to make negative comments about actors who are promoting approved indie projects at festivals.

“Whether from within or without our organization, not only are remarks of this nature unhelpful to performers, but by dividing us, they do the AMPTP’s work for them,” the union stated. “The more projects that get made with the Interim Agreement, the weaker the AMPTP becomes. So, let’s lift up our fellow performers who are out there working.”

More than 300 projects have been granted SAG-AFTRA agreements thus far.

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