Post-WGA Agreement: What's Next?

Members of WGA walk with pickets on strike outside the Culver Studio, Tuesday May 2, 2023 in Culver City, California. (Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock)

Members of WGA walk with pickets on strike outside the Culver Studio, Tuesday May 2, 2023 in Culver City, California. (Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock)

With the Writers Guild's strike poised to conclude following a tentative agreement, attention now shifts to SAG-AFTRA. At the same time, IATSE and the American Federation of Musicians await their turns on the negotiation stage.

The subsequent contracts under scrutiny belong to the American Federation of Musicians: the Basic Theatrical Motion Picture and Basic Television Motion Picture Agreements, slated to expire on November 14. Negotiation dates with the AMPTP are pending.

Unlike the Directors Guild, which secured a contract without resorting to a strike on June 3, the WGA, engaged in a strike since May 2, rejected the industry's customary "pattern bargaining" practice, where the subsequent union in line typically mirrors the preceding deal.

With the WGA achieving terms arguably superior to the DGA after 146 days of picketing, SAG-AFTRA may view this agreement not as a strict pattern but as a foundational model. This framework could address many of SAG-AFTRA's demands, including enhanced wages, innovative streaming residual calculations, and protections against potential artificial intelligence-related abuses.

This juncture may be a fresh starting point when SAG-AFTRA's negotiations recommence. While the leaders expressed readiness to return to the table since the actors' strike commenced on July 14, SAG-AFTRA harbors unique concerns, such as minimum staffing and employment duration in TV writers' rooms, kept from the DGA or WGA contracts.

One pressing issue for actors pertains to self-taped auditions, which became widespread during the COVID-19 pandemic. SAG-AFTRA contends that these auditions lack regulation and oversight, posing an undue burden on performers' lives. They advocate for reasonable guidelines, broader access to alternative casting methods, and protections against exploitation.

Before the strike, both sides tentatively agreed to numerous self-taping rules, addressing technical requisites and other concerns. While SAG-AFTRA continues to push for further protections, these prior agreements could serve as a basis for future negotiations unless the companies adopt a rigid stance, dismissing them post-strike.

The WGA's success in mitigating potential AI abuses may provide a blueprint for SAG-AFTRA to tackle similar threats to performers. However, SAG-AFTRA asserts that the AMPTP failed to address critical concerns, potentially jeopardizing performers' roles adequately.

Finances, encompassing wages and residuals, remain challenging, with SAG-AFTRA advocating for an 11% pay increase in the initial contract year. Nevertheless, the prolonged work hiatus may have offset substantial portions of this increment.

After the actors' strike concludes, the AMPTP will face negotiations with IATSE in the coming year. IATSE members, who have stood in solidarity with striking actors and writers, have incurred significant losses in terms of wages and employer contributions to their pension and health plans. Whether this hardship will culminate in a more assertive stance or a reluctance to strike again remains uncertain.

In the interim, WGA members must ratify their new agreement. The Ellen Stutzman-led WGA negotiating committee is slated to vote on the agreement's recommendation for approval by the WGAW Board and WGAE Council in votes tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.

While the first casualties of the WGA strike, late-night comedy and daytime talk shows, are set to return promptly due to their exclusion from SAG-AFTRA's ongoing strike, films and scripted TV shows without Interim Agreements with SAG-AFTRA will remain in limbo until the strike's resolution.

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