Writers Guild comes out swinging ahead of crunch talks with studios

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If you were hoping a strike-ending love-in might be on the cards, think again – as the WGA has accused the AMPTP of ‘spreading disinformation.’

A couple of days ago we heard that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) were set to return to the negotiating table for the first time since writers downed pens and went on strike three months ago.

The intervening weeks have seen both sides releasing statements and stories to the press, talking up their side of the argument and we’d imagine that there’s likely been the odd ego bruised when the rhetoric has heated up, especially those of studio heads like Warner Bros’ David Zaslav and Disney’s Bob Iger, who have come in for particular and sustained criticism.

Still, with talks set to resume today, you might imagine that both sides would go into the negotiations playing nice (or at the very least, pretending to). Nope. On the very day talks are set to resume, the WGA has fired a very public, very critical broadside at the AMPTP in an email to its members, accusing the AMPTP of ‘wasting months’ and ‘spreading disinformation’ that the strikes aren’t having a negative financial impact upon their balance sheets. Here’s a fuller section of the statement :

‘So far, the companies have wasted months on their same failed strategy. They have attempted, time and time again, through anonymous quotes in the media, to use scare tactics, rumours and lies to weaken our resolve. Article after article has perpetuated a myth that the strike has no impact because streaming services have libraries and some product in the pipeline. Pundits quoting studio executives claim that the strike is good for the companies financially and that they will be happy to have it extend into 2024 so they can write off their losses.  

This is calculated disinformation about the real impact of the ongoing strikes.  We have shut down production. Union writers and actors are so essential in this industry that the companies cannot even attempt to do the work without us. It is not a viable business strategy for these companies to shut down their business for three months and counting, no matter how much they try and pretend it is.’

In a final damning line which bluntly suggests that the WGA aren’t optimistic about the upcoming negotiation, the email states: “We won’t prejudge what’s to come. But playbooks die hard.” Ouch.

For its part, the AMPTP responded by stating: “Tomorrow’s discussion with the WGA is to determine whether we have a willing bargaining partner,” a spokesperson for the group told Deadline. “The WGA Bargaining Committee’s rhetoric is unfortunate. This strike has hurt thousands of people in this industry, and we take that very seriously. Our only playbook is getting people back to work.”

This incendiary opening to negotiations likely won’t have both sides exchanging hugs when they begin talks later today. The WGA seems convinced that the AMPTP isn’t showing up to the talks ready to act in good faith. We’re hoping that a fair way forwards can still be navigated, but the writers have good reason to be wary. Warner Bros CEO David Zaslav claimed today that he thinks the industry will be up and running again by September but for that to happen, the AMPTP will have to agree to some weighty concessions, and if this opening salvo is anything to go by, the writers guild appears to be in no mood for compromises.

We’ll bring you more as we hear it. You can read the full WGA statement over at Deadline

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