WGA Halts Face-to-Face Meetings As Coronavirus Outbreak Looms Over Upcoming Contract Negotiations
UPDATED with email to members: The WGA this morning informed its membership that the upcoming membership meetings have been “cancelled as a precaution against COVID-19 (coronavirus),” I have learned.
The leadership of the guild had set up eight membership meetings from February 28 -March 13 “to discuss proposals and priorities for the upcoming Minimum Basic Agreement negotiation” — three for showrunners, three for general members and two for screenwriters.
The three remaining ones, a general members forum tonight, March 10, a showrunner one on March 12 and a screenwriter one on March 13, have now been scrapped in response to the outbreak.
“In lieu of face-to-face meetings, the negotiating committee will share information about the upcoming negotiations via email over the next two weeks,” the guild told members Tuesday. “The WGA and the AMPTP are scheduled to begin bargaining on March 23, 2020,” the said in its communication to members.” (Read the full memo below.)
In canceling in-person meetings, the WGA follows fellow Hollywood union SAG-AFTRA, which sent a similar advisory to its members yesterday.
The development comes less than two weeks before the WGA is slated to begin contract negotiations with the studios. With the coronavirus epidemic engulfing the country, along with the rest of the world, and its impact in Hollywood growing every day, there has been chatter that the guild could extend its current AMPTP contract, which expires May 1, to avoid a potential strike amid a global health crisis. A rep for the WGA had no comment whether such a possibility is being considered. I hear that a potential contract extension has not been discussed with guild members or studios.
The WGA last struck the film and TV industry in 2007-2008 for 100 days.
WGA members showed unity as they overwhelmingly approved a Pattern of Demands last month that called for increased minimum compensation “in all areas” and improved residuals for reuse markets. The pattern also calls for a “signatory companies to negotiate only with agents franchised by the WGA,” which threatens to drag the companies into the guild’s 11-month battle with the major talent agencies over packaging and affiliate production. Guild leaders have reportedly told showrunners that it plans to drop that demand, although it’s still posted on the WGA West’s website. Sources describe the most recent showrunner meeting, held over the weekend, as contentious.
The AMPTP recently reached a tentative agreement on a new film and TV contract with the DGA. SAG-AFTRA’s contract expires June 30.
Here’s the WGA letter today:
I hope this email finds you well. Please be advised that the General Membership Meeting scheduled for tonight March 10th at the Hollywood Palladium has been cancelled to safeguard against spreading COVID-19.
The showrunner meeting scheduled for Thursday morning March 12th at the Sheraton Universal and the Screenwriter Meeting scheduled for Friday morning March 13th at the Loews Hollywood have also been cancelled.
In lieu of face-to-face meetings, the negotiating committee will share information about the upcoming negotiations via email over the next two weeks. The WGA and the AMPTP are scheduled to begin bargaining on March 23, 2020.
Please check-in with me if have questions or concerns. You can also send messages for the negotiating committee leadership to MBA2020 (firstname.lastname@example.org).