Sources said the intention is for the sides to meet again Friday, but the plan has not been firmed up. If no deal is reached by midnight PT Friday, the guild could order its members to fire their agents en masse, possibly as early as Saturday morning. Today’s talks were the third since the negotiations were extended for a week on April 6.
The WGA has said there won’t be another extension if a deal isn’t reached by the deadline but added that “diplomacy” might continue after thousands of writers walk out on their agents at the same time. Only those agencies that sign the guild’s new Code of Conduct will be allowed to represent WGA members, and more than 100 ATA member-agencies — including all the major agencies — have said they won’t sign.
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“Friday at midnight is a true deadline,” the guild said Thursday. “Unless we have an agreed-upon deal, the WGA West Board and WGA East Council have voted that the Code of Conduct will go into effect at 12:01 am on Saturday, April 13th. From that point on, diplomacy can continue alongside powerful collective action.”
The chief stumbling block to a deal has been the WGA’s demand that that agencies get out of the packaging business and sever their ties with production affiliates – both of which the guild says are conflicts of interests to the agencies’ fiduciary duties to their writer-clients. The guild’s current agreement with the ATA, called the Artists’ Managers Basic Agreement, hasn’t been renegotiated in 43 years, during the Ford administration.
“Our agents work for us,” the guild has said in a statement about why the agency business must change. “Every dollar they make must be generated as a percentage of the money we make. That is what it means to be our representatives and our fiduciaries. Agency-based studios and packaging fees make a mockery of that and are in violation of the agencies’ ethical and legal obligations to writers. We have taken too long to demand that these practices end. But the persistence of a corrupt system does not make it right. And putting things right does not blow up the business.”
Going into this final phase of negotiations, the Association of Talent Agents said that “The guild’s ‘no compromise’ position could soon throw our industry into chaos.”
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