UPDATED with WGA responses to Lombardini email: In a troubling sign of the ill will the WGA has for management’s AMPTP as they prepare for upcoming contract talks in the middle of a pandemic, WGA West executive director David Young has accused the AMPTP of being “despicable.”
“There will be an agreement when both sides agree there’s one. You people are despicable,” Young said in an April 17 email to Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers president Carol Lombardini about extending the contract and setting a date for the negotiations to begin.
The guild’s current film and TV contract is still set to expire on May 1, but the two sides have tentatively agreed to extend the contract until June 30 and to begin negotiations on May 11 via teleconference. But there’s a caveat: before agreeing to those dates, Young told the AMPTP that he wants the trustees of the WGA Health Plan, on or before April 24, to adopt an amendment to the health plan extending eligibility to participants who will lose coverage through the end of the year if they fail to meet the earnings threshold and don’t have extended care points to continue their coverage.
Lombardini told Young on April 17 that she would take this up with the management trustees of the Health Plan, but indicated that this could not be a precondition for starting the contract talks, as the Health Plan is a separate entity and is not controlled by the AMPTP, although half of its trustees are representatives from AMPTP companies. Instead, she told Young that the extension of health coverage should be a part of the contract negotiations.
“Your e-mail gratuitously states, ‘You people are despicable,’” Lombardini told Young in an April 20 email. “You give no reason or context for this ad hominem attack. We can only assume that you are upset that the AMPTP did not immediately agree to your separate request that the Producer-WGA Health Plan eligibility provisions be amended to extend eligibility for anyone who does not meet the eligibility requirements. While we are willing to consider this issue as part of our negotiations, this is an issue, as you are well aware, that ultimately must be decided by the Trustees of the Plan after looking at the financial implications to the Plan as well as a number of other issues regarding who should be eligible for such an extension. Certainly we, as the bargaining parties, can and should weigh in on these questions and we are willing to discuss them with you either as part of the negotiations or separately. However, the need to deal with the issue of participants who may lose eligibility as a result of the COVID-19-related shutdowns is a separate issue from the need (and legal obligation) of the bargaining parties to commence overall negotiations for a new Minimum Basic Agreement. It is critical to get the negotiations started both because of the impending expiration date and so that when it is time to resume production, the industry is in a position to do so immediately, without concern that another shutdown might be imminent due to the absence of a contract and the possibility of a strike.”
She also told Young: “Your e-mail is confusing because it states that ‘there will be an agreement when both sides agree there’s one.’ I assume that is in response to my April 17th letter in which I noted that we have agreement on the issues of the date to which the contract is being extended, when proposals will be exchanged and when negotiations will commence. If so, your statement is incorrect—we already have agreement regarding all three of these issues and we intend to proceed on that basis. Specifically, you originally requested a September 1, 2020 expiration date. The AMPTP rejected that proposal and countered with a proposal of a June 30th expiration date, an exchange of proposals on April 15 and an April 20th start date for negotiations. On April 15th, you agreed to the June 30th expiration date and proposed an exchange of proposals on May 1 and a start of negotiations on May 11th. We agreed to all of those points in my letter to you of April 17th. In sum, we have agreement on the extension of the MBA and the process and dates for commencing negotiations. It is our intention to proceed based on that agreed-upon approach and request that you advise us immediately if the Guild does not intend to do the same.”
Here is the WGA’s response to Lombardini’s email, per WGA West President David A. Goodman:
“On April 17th, the WGA asked the AMPTP to approve an extension of health care coverage through the end of the year for writers whose eligibility is impacted by the economic fall-out of the coronavirus pandemic. The WGA fund has sufficient reserves to cover this contingency. The extension is the right thing to do, and writers’ employers should not have to think twice about ensuring that the people who have made their businesses successful have access to quality, uninterrupted healthcare.”
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