At 8 p.m. PT tonight there will be just 100 hours to go before the expiration of the WGA’s franchise agreement with the Association of Talent Agents. And with the clock ticking inexorably closer to that midnight Saturday deadline, it’s still a waiting game to see if or when the sides will return to the bargaining table for one last shot at working out a new franchise agreement. If not, WGA leaders could order their members to fire all their agents as soon as Sunday morning.
“At this point, no meetings are scheduled,” said a source close to the negotiations, “and there’s no sense at this time that there will be.”
Odds are, however, that they’ll return to the bargaining table at least one more time before the deadline – which was the impression writers were given when they voted overwhelmingly to approve a new Agency Code of Conduct that will replace the ATA’s current franchise agreement if no deal is reached by the deadline. That lopsided vote — 95.3% to 4.7% — was taken not only to approve the new Code but to show the members’ resolve, much as a strike-authorization vote does when a sticky film and TV contract negotiation comes down to the wire.
As stated on the ballot, the WGA West’s Board and the WGA East’s Council still would have to authorize such a walkout, if it comes to that. “Do you authorize the Board and Council to implement an Agency Code of Conduct, if and when it becomes advisable to do so, upon expiration of the current AMBA on April 6, 2019?” the ballot asked.
After the vote was announced, the ATA said: “We look forward to getting back into the room to work through an agreement that serves the best interest of writers, respects their individual choice, and prevents unnecessary disruption to our industry. We stand ready and waiting.”
The two key issues, on which no progress has been made since the talks began February 5, are agency packaging fees and the big agencies’ corporate ties to related production entities – both of which the guild says are conflicts of interest.
The two sides haven’t met at the bargaining table since March 27, after which the ATA accused the WGA of threatening to throw “our industry into chaos,” and the guild saying, “The agencies ignored everything we presented.”
Later tonight, they’ll have just 100 hours to figure things out.
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