Karen Stuart, executive director of the Association of Talent Agents, accused the WGA again today of not bargaining in good faith for a new agency franchise agreement. “There is no real exchange of ideas,” she said in a letter to her member agencies. “There are no answers to our questions, many of which your own writer clients are asking you for answers to.”
Her comments come in the wake of Tuesday’s bargaining session, where again no progress was made on the key issues of packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production entities.
“The WGA has a standard negotiating practice and it is clear they will not bargain in good faith until the clock runs down,” she wrote. “In our March 21 meeting, (WGA West executive director) David Young laid out his three-pronged negotiating strategy. He said that we’re still in phase two – the threatening phase. We look forward to a time when the WGA stops subjecting our members and the entire industry to ‘threats’ and moves on to their ‘phase three’ so that we can get to work on a deal.
“Yesterday, the ATA eight-member working committee met with the WGA leadership for our seventh meeting,” Stuart added. “WGA said they would present counter proposals to ATA’s full AMBA agreement proposal that we presented to WGA on March 21. As reported, there was no progress.”
The WGA, she wrote, “has struck down, almost in its entirety, the current agreement between us.”
Here are the key issues she adressed out in her update:
“Choice: Writers should have individual choice when charting their own career paths, and we will continue to fight for them.
“Packaging and Production: While ATA has proposed an entire agreement based on transparency about packaging and production, WGA leadership has taken a “no compromise” approach on these issues. Yet, the WGA has proposed that conflicts can be managed in the area of agency services related to film finance, sales and distribution provided the agency discloses its services to the writer. Separately, they recent stated publicly that they will allow talent managers – who also produce content – to negotiate a writer’s deal.
“Private Information: ATA has presented fair solutions to the Guild’s request that agencies provide their clients’ confidential information without the client’s individual consent. WGA does not agree that the writer client’s consent is needed.
“Chaos: WGA’s proposed contingency plan proposes that online resources, managers, attorneys, replacement agents and writer-to-writer networking can get the job done in place of your current agents. Writers count on agents to get them their next job and thoughtfully guide their career trajectory. A website cannot do this. It is illegal for lawyers and mangers to do this. This is going to hurt writers who are not in deals, don’t have their next job, and who have been historically underrepresented in our industry.
“Jobs: The guild’s plan would eliminate hundreds of jobs for writers and artists by ending affiliate production entities at a time when strong agencies are exactly what artists need to help them navigate the media environment.”
The WGA, meanwhile, laid out the course of action it will be taking if a deal isn’t reached by the April 6 expiration of the current agreement – including ordering its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign the guild’s proposed Agency Code of Conduct. Membership voting on the Code will begin tonight.