The ATA said tonight that the WGA’s new Agency Code of Conduct is “unacceptable to all agencies,” and without holding out any hope that the two sides will return to the bargaining table before tomorrow night’s deadline, has instead said that it will host a meeting of member agencies next Wednesday to discuss “the WGA’s harmful proposals.” It now appears more and more likely that their current franchise agreement will expire Sunday night at midnight, which will automatically disenfranchise all talent agencies that refuse to sign the Code – including all the major agencies.
“Since last year, we have repeatedly tried to meet and engage in meaningful, productive conversations with the WGA,” Karen Stuart, executive director of the Association of Talent Agents told her members tonight. “They refused and would only agree to meet via their formal negotiation process involving the passing of documents and a 50-person room. These methods are not conducive to an honest, productive dialogue. As negotiators, we all know this is not how you get a deal done. We provided a comprehensive solution that gives writers what they want – choice, transparency, and safeguards. Meanwhile, the WGA continues to take a ‘no compromise’ stance – just two days ago, they sent us a modified version of their proposal that was materially identical to the previous version of their proposal.”
The WGA, she said, “claims it has broad authority over agents and is empowered to force agents to sign a Code of Conduct that regulates the conduct of agents in all respects. The WGA claims it has the right to delegate ‘its authority’ to managers and attorneys to negotiate for writers. ATA disagrees.”
The WGA’s Code, which was overwhelmingly approved by the guild’s members, would ban packaging fees and force agencies to sever their ties with affiliated production companies. The Code, Stuart said, “Is unacceptable to all agencies – from those that employ two agents to those employing 2,000. The Code would impose a unilateral mandate, granting the WGA power over your business operations and providing the guild with an unprecedented level of control to dictate how your agency operates. This self-proclaimed power grab will enable the WGA to change the terms of the agreement on 90 days’ notice, after the initial fixed term, regardless of the effect it will have on agencies and their business models.”
Earlier today, however, 12 small agencies — none of them ATA members — signed a statement of support for the WGA.
See Stuart’s full letter here.
Stuart also told her members that the WGA’s Code would establish a “harmful new precedent” that would require agencies to:
• Disclose confidential client information, even against your clients’ wishes, including but not limited to, quarterly financial statements, copies of deals, and invoices.
• Report regularly to the guild on a variety of subjects, including employment data, film budgets, and lists of projects where the agency is providing services.
• Get the guild’s approval (or disapproval) of film finance deals negotiated by your agency on your clients’ behalf.
• Subject all disputes to guild-selected arbitrators, with loss of franchise and substantial financial damages determined by a single arbitrator with no appeal.”
Here is the FAQ Stuart sent to her members tonight:
“For all these reasons,” she said, “the ATA is firmly opposed to WGA’s Code because we do not believe it is in your best interest or the best interests of your clients. The seismic shifts in the media landscape are creating new challenges for artists and disruption across the industry, while simultaneously generating positive change and opportunity. We need strong agencies of every size and interest to help artists push against these forces and thrive amidst the change.”
The WGA and the ATA first met to negotiate a new agreement on Feb. 5, but they haven’t been back to the bargaining table since March 27.
The ATA meeting will be held April 10, from 10 a.m. to noon. “At this meeting,” Stuart told her members, “we will provide additional facts and information on the WGA’s harmful proposals, update you on our thoughtful approach through this process and answer any questions you have about the process and our counterproposals.”
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