The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents are at an “impasse” in their negotiations for a new franchise agreement, according to WGA West president David A. Goodman, who said he now expects the agencies “to break off talks.”
“The parties are at impasse,” he told his members today. “That happens in every negotiation where there are differences so strong that they can only be resolved by action away from the bargaining table.”
If the deadlock isn’t broken, the guild is expected to order its members to fire their agents en masse on April 6 if their agents refuse to sign the guild’s proposed new Code of Conduct, which would ban packaging and end agency involvement in production deals with related entities. The WGA’s members are expected to approve the code on March 25 in advance of the April 6 expiration of the WGA’s current franchise agreement with the ATA. And that could put the big agencies out of the TV packaging business until and unless a new deal is reached.
“The impasse will be broken by the membership vote in a few weeks,” Goodman wrote. “Writers will decide in a democratic election what the guild should do about agency conflict of interest. The decision remains yours. I continue to ask for your support, for your faith in what we are doing, and for your courage. None of this is easy. I also feel doubt, question myself every day, and worry about negative ramifications to my own career for what we’ve taken on. But I always come back to the same place: we’re doing the right thing. We have the power as writers to fix the agency business and ensure that those that represent us are truly on our side.”
Goodman blames the impasse on the ATA, which last week told the guild that it wanted assurances from WGA leaders before returning to the bargaining table that they are willing to compromise on their proposals.
“We are at an important moment in our campaign to ensure that our agencies work for writers’ best interests,” Goodman told his members. “Last week, after the WGA offered to meet with the agencies on both February 27th and 28th, the ATA issued an ultimatum that they will not meet for further negotiations unless we are willing to ‘compromise on all proposals.’ Specifically, this means compromise on allowing agencies to continue conflicted practices like packaging and producing.”
This, he said, “is a power move by the agencies. It is in fact the absolute heart of the whole struggle that we have undertaken. This moment had to arrive. It comes 330 days after we gave the ATA our proposals, which demand an end to corrupt agency practices that harm writers. Are our proposals radical? No. Our Code of Conduct prohibits exactly the kind of self-dealing that these very agencies agree to forego when they represent professional athletes.”
The agencies, he said, “have never replied to our proposals; they have made vague promises to their clients, but no actual counter-proposals in formal negotiation. That’s because we’ve demanded things that they almost certainly will not concede without a fight. And I don’t think we should concede these proposals without a fight. I understand how frustrating it is for writers that negotiations are currently stalled. No one is more frustrated than me.”
“We would have preferred to keep meeting with the agencies in order to narrow our areas of disagreement, leaving the biggest issues for last,” he concluded. “During the second day of talks, the guild modified some of our initial proposals, including dropping a key demand. We’ve made proposals that could have been talked through and agreed to last week, including promoting inclusivity, working together to fix free work and late pay, agency transparency and other issues important to writers. But the agencies refused, and I now expect them to break off talks.”
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