WGA strike negotiations near potential breakthrough as studios make ‘final offer’

Screenwriters’ union has been striking since May over issues surrounding residual pay and regulation around the use of AI

Louis Chilton
Sunday 24 September 2023 16:44 BST
WGA writers strike hits two week mark as nationwide pickets continue

Hopes for an end to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike have swelled amid a weekend of negotiations between the screenwriters’ union and studio bosses.

The WGA went on strike in early May, with issues surrounding residual pay and the use of AI among key reasons for the labour dispute.

The organising body was joined weeks later by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), with the two strikes bringing large parts of the film and TV industry to a halt.

WGA negotiators have spent the past four days locked in negotiations. Studio representatives delivered a “best and final” offer on Saturday night, which was then subject to discussion the following day, CNN reported.

Should a deal be struck between the two parties, it would need to be ratified by WGA members before coming into effect.

In a joint statement, the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) confirmed they “met for bargaining on Saturday and will meet again on Sunday”.

The strike, which began on 2 May, is days away from being the longest work stoppage in the history of the WGA, which has 11,000 members.

The longest one took place in 1988, and lasted for 154 days; the WGA has currently been striking for 146 days.

There are a number of core issues at stake in the negotiations. One of these is residual pay – royalties received by writers for syndicated re-runs. The WGA has argued that regulation around residuals has failed to ensure they are adequately compensated in the era of streaming.

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Other significant issues have been worker protections, wages, and regulation around the use of artificial intelligence (AI) by studios.

The WGA strike picket line

The SAG-AFTRA strike, which began on 14 July, involves many similar issues.

An end to the WGA strikes would fuel optimism surrounding a potential end to the actors’ strike, and the possibility of the industry resuming normal activity.

Per CNN, bosses at four of Hollywood’s biggest studios – Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav, Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley – stopped attending the negotiations on Saturday, having been personally present for the past few days.

The outlet reported that this has been taken as a positive sign of talks progressing, with their exit suggesting that “nearly all the major issues had been resolved”.

In order for film and TV productions to start up again, however, a deal will need to also be struck between the studio representatives and SAG-AFTRA, with the possibility still remaining that the Hollywood shutdown could last into next year.

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