The Writers Guild of America West has demanded a $3 million bond from Nickelodeon because of “chronically late residuals payment and inadequate reporting practices.” In a March 8 dated letter I have obtained, the WGA West tells the Viacom-owned network that if the multi-million dollar bond is not posted by March 25, the guild could take further action. That action could include instructing “writers to withhold their services from any signatory Company for which Nickelodeon is the residuals payer.” Invoking Article 42 of the guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement, the bond demand came in a letter earlier this month from the WGA West’s director of Legal Services Katherine Shannon Christovisch sent to Nickelodeon’s lawyers at LA firm Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp. Stating that “Nickelodeon pays haphazardly, often only after the Guild initiates an arbitration claim” and “scores of writers have had to wait years to get the residuals due,” Christovisch notes that the company is falls under Article 42’s definition of not being “reliable or financially responsible residuals payers.” She adds “we have determined the adequacy of the bond by projecting, based on recent reuse history, the residuals that we project will become due in 2013.”
Sources tell me that WGA president Chris Keyser decided to act on the long simmering situation earlier thus year after members complained of increasing economic hardship because of the late or unforthcoming payments from Nickelodeon. In the past 18 months, the Guild has had up to 20 different suits against Nickelodeon for late or unpaid residuals, an insider says. “Frequently these claims resolve on the eve of hearing, forcing the Guild to expend time and resources getting from the Companies what the MBA plainly requires,” Christovisch notes in her letter. Frustration with the network on the administrative level is also reflected in the March 8 letter. “It is imperative that Nickelodeon enhance its ability to report on time, whether by hiring a third party administrator or implementing an internal residuals system, hiring additional staff, etc. In no circumstance will the Guild take this burden on itself,” the WGA West’s director of Legal Services writes.