This week, Hollywood producers published details of the offer they made to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) earlier this month. The WGA responded by saying this was an attempt to increase pressure on the striking writers.
Background to the WGA strike
Writers who are members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have been on strike since May this year. Their dispute is with the Hollywood producers’ association, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). One of the main issues behind the strike is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to generate scripts and other written content. The WGA also has concerns over the rates for residual payments to writers for TV shows and movies on streaming services such as Netflix.
What has the AMPTP done?
On August 11 the AMPTP made an offer to the WGA to resolve the strike. However, the details of the offer had not been made public until now. Shortly after a meeting with WGA negotiators on August 22, the AMPTP issued a press release which set out what the organization called its “comprehensive package.” Carol Lombardini, president of the AMPTP, said, “We are deeply committed to ending the strike and are hopeful that the WGA will work toward the same resolution.”
What is the offer?
The AMPTP offer includes a 13 percent wage increase spread over three years and a 15 percent increase in minimum weekly rates for Article 14 writers. These are writers who also work in an additional capacity such as an executive producer, producer, associate producer, showrunner, story editor, or creative consultant. There is also a commitment to increase the residuals for some high-budget shows on streaming services. In addition, a new structure to train writers to become showrunners has been proposed. In relation to AI, the AMPTP said that written material produced by AI will not be considered literary material. This means that a writer’s payments won’t be affected by the use of generative AI-produced material.
How has the WGA responded?
The WGA’s negotiators said that they believe the AMPTP is trying to put pressure on writers to give up the strike. The meeting between the WGA and the AMPTP prior to the offer being published was meant to be for negotiation. However, the WGA says that the AMPTP just delivered a “lecture about how good their (offer) was.” The WGA also said, “This wasn’t a meeting to make a deal. This was a meeting to get us to cave, which is why, not twenty minutes after we left the meeting, the AMPTP released its summary of their proposals.”
In the days following the AMPTP’s publication of their offer, the WGA issued a more detailed response. The WGA said that the offer was “neither nothing, nor nearly enough. We will continue to advocate for proposals that fully address our issues rather than accept half measures like those.”
In addition, the WGA published a table showing the costs of their proposed deal against the profits of the movie and TV companies. The figures quoted were between only 0.206 percent and 0.004 percent. The WGA says it remains “committed to direct negotiations with the companies” but for now the strike continues.
What we think
The publication of its offer by the AMPTP seems to have only hardened the division between the two sides. For a lot of working people, the amounts of money mentioned by the AMPTP must seem enormous. Perhaps the AMPTP had hoped that its action would turn public support against the writers by making them seem greedy. However, the response from the WGA shows just how vast the annual revenues of the movie and TV companies are. In context, the WGA is only asking that writers get their fair share which doesn’t seem unreasonable. In addition, the WGA’s comment that the offer was “neither nothing, nor nearly enough” shows that there is a way to go but does offer some hope for a negotiated settlement. Hopefully, that can be achieved sooner rather than later.