Strike Negotiations Break Down

Posted on December 7, 2007

The AMPTP walked out on the strike negotiations late this afternoon, after issuing an ultimatum to the writers. They said that either the writers remove their requests on several subjects (such as jurisdiction over reality tv shows) or they would walk. The WGA said they wouldn't drop all their proposals in full, but that were willing to keep talking. The AMPTP left and promptly issued one of the most obnoxious statements we've seen yet. Here's the official WGA statement:

AMPTP BREAKS OFF NEGOTIATIONS

Today, after three days of discussions, the AMPTP came back to us with a proposal that included a total rejection of our proposal on Internet streaming of December 3rd.

They are holding to their offer of a $250 fixed residual for unlimited one year streaming after a six-week window of free use. They still insist on the DVD rate for Internet downloads.

They refuse to cover original material made for new media.

This offer was accompanied by an ultimatum: the AMPTP demands we give up several of our proposals, including Fair Market Value (our protection against vertical integration and self-dealing), animation, reality, and, most crucially, any proposal that uses distributor's gross as a basis for residuals. This would require us to concede most of our Internet proposal as a precondition for continued bargaining. The AMPTP insists we let them do to the Internet what they did to home video.

We received a similar ultimatum through back channels prior to the discussions of November 4th. At that time, we were assured that if we took DVDs off the table, we would get a fair offer on new media issues. That offer never materialized.

We reject the idea of an ultimatum. Although a number of items we have on the table are negotiable, we cannot be forced to bargain with ourselves. The AMPTP has many proposals on the table that are unacceptable to writers, but we have never delivered ultimatums.

As we prepared our counter-offer, at 6:05 p.m., Nick Counter came and said to us, in the mediator's presence: "We are leaving. When you write us a letter saying you will take all these items off the table, we will reschedule negotiations with you." Within minutes, the AMPTP had posted a lengthy statement announcing the breakdown of negotiations.

We remain ready and willing to negotiate, no matter how intransigent our bargaining partners are, because the stakes are simply too high. We were prepared to counter their proposal tonight, and when any of them are ready to return to the table, we're here, ready to make a fair deal.

John F. Bowman

Chairman, Negotiating Committee

The situation is getting more complicated because the Directors Guild is going to start their negotiations. Traditionally, the DGA and the WGA don't always see eye to eye on contract issues; so the situation is fraught with difficulties, to say the least.