EXCLUSIVE: Four days after returning to the negotiating table, the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers are near an agreement on a new three-year contract, I’ve learned. “We’re not there yet and there are still a few more I’s to dot and T’s to cross, but we’re very close,” one insider told me today. With many of the bulky points already coming together in the first two weeks of talks, the two sides spent some of their two-week temporary recess fine-tuning the agreement, sources on both sides say, before sitting down again at AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks HQ. An official announcement could come as early as the beginning of next week. If you take out the downtime, this year’s talks pretty much follow the timeline of the placid 2011 negotiations, which started on March 3 that year and were all done by March 20.
As widely expected, under pattern bargaining, the final deal this time round between the WGA and AMPTP will be similar to the agreement the DGA made with the studios and networks late last year with measured increases in minimums, residuals, pension and health contributions. Two of the stickier points still under discussion are creating some degree of parity between cable and broadcast pay and the notion of exclusively and options, which the guild has made a priority in order to free writers from the purgatory of enforced unemployment. Still, even if it takes a bit longer to come to consensus on those matters, and no one stupidly throws a Molotov cocktail like the multimillion-dollar rollback proposal AMPTP sent the WGA just before negotiations began, everything will be settled long before the current WGA deal expires May 1.
Unlike the days following the February 3 beginning of talks, when things between the two sides were tense because of the rollback proposal, which even one producer called “ridiculous,” the majority of the room started working together fairly amicably by the beginning of the second week. “In the beginning, the tone was like when Nick Counter was running things and his approach was ‘No’ to everything,” one person close to the talks said. “But [AMPTP president Carol Lombardini] wanted to have a more productive atmosphere.” Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray are heading the WGA’s 20-member-plus negotiating committee, with WGAW executive director David Young taking lead as chief negotiator.
Longish story short — peace continues to reign in Hollywood.
Once WGA members approve a new deal, all that’s left is for SAG-AFTRA to name a start date for its talks with AMPTP. The union, which will be entering its first such negotiations since merging in 2012, is still going through mandated wages and working conditions meetings with members.