Tuesday was the day that the writers and the producers were supposed to start considering “new business” during their resumed contract negotiations. But, instead, they just kept focused on old business. Day #2 was supposed to be “when they really start advancing the ball forward” and “where the rubber can really meet the road,” according to its advance billing. Instead, it was the same old same old.
Again, negotiators for the AMPTP presented that “very comprehensive proposal which laid out to all the entire roadmap to the deal” and, again, addressed every single issue. And, again, negotiators for the WGA listened and, again, kept getting up to caucus.
But where was the new stuff?
The reps for the studios and networks keep telling me about at least two improvements in their comprehensive proposal presented Monday compared to what was on the table back on Sunday November 4th when the talks broke off and the strike began. “But they also feel that the writers weren’t paying attention and didn’t absorb the proposal back then. So, basically, they presented back what they proposed on November 4th,” an insider in that camp explains to me.
It took a couple of hours, I’m told, for the AMPTP to do this. “They went over the proposal point by point as though they were delivering a new proposal,” a different source explained to me. “But it was the exact same proposal, though they restated their positions in a friendlier manner.”
Yet I’ve been repeatedly told by people in a position to know that the networks and studios do have new stuff to present, and the writers still hope that will be done sooner rather than later. But it’s truly baffling to me exactly why the AMPTP is slowing down the process when, if anything, it should be speeded up especially with Christmas looming. On the other hand, this is a favorite negotiating tactic of AMPTP president Nick Counter: to repeatedly offer little new until the guilds are forced to negotiate against themselves by continually reducing their demands. (Which is one reason why the writers now are toying with a provocative new tactic of raising their demands at every bargaining session.)
My question is: have the Hollywood moguls authorized Counter to delay? (Which, if so, will give fuel to the fire that the studios and networks just agreed to these talks purely for their PR value and are instead adhering to their individual timetables to declare force majeure. If the moguls think they’re badly losing the PR war now, which they are, just wait until that happens.) Or has Counter talked them into this strategy because he thinks it’ll work now just as it has in the past?
But that was then, and this is now. I’m hearing phrases like “jaw-dropping”, “mind-boggling” and “you can gape at the chutzpah” to describe Tuesday’s session. But I also hear the writers are determined not to feel frustrated or angry. “You’ve got to admire the kabuki of it,” a source told me. “You can look at this as some really sophisticated and interesting negotiating tactic, or as stonewalling. But it’s also paralysis. It’s one thing to go back but another to not move at all.”
Still, an insider is convinced that what happened at Tuesday’s session “is like two cars just sitting there getting ready for a game of chicken. Neither one wants to go first. Both sides will get past this. I don’t know when, but they will.”
I understand the writers will spend this AM caucusing to figure out their next move.
Look, I’m going to wait until I receive a report about Wednesday’s talks before I begin passing judgment on what’s happening, or not happening, here. But I must say that Day #2 certainly puts a damper on all those wishful-thinking rumors sweeping Hollywood and beyond – but not here at DHD – that the strike would be settled by December 8th.