When contract talks between the two film and television organizations proved unproductive late Nov. 4, writers began their first strike since 1988.
Now, in notices from both parties, comes word that they will go back to the table to work on a deal. "Leaders from the AMPTP and the WGA have mutually agreed to resume formal negotiations on November 26. No other details or press statements will be issued," read a brief statement issued late Nov. 16.
In a letter to WGA-East members, President Michael Winship noted, "The welcome return to negotiations is a result of all of this public pressure, attention and activity. But we still have a long way to go. Remember, until further notice, WE ARE STILL ON STRIKE."
Despite the presence of a federal mediator, both sides could not come to an agreement for a new contract between the union and the trade association that represents more than 350 production companies and studios. The previous deal had expired Oct. 31. On the table are issues of profits from new media — which include DVD and Internet distribution.
At 12:01 AM (ET), writers on the East Coast began the work stoppage as talks continued into the night on the West Coast. The WGA had called for a strike Nov. 2 (to take effect Nov. 5), which was voted upon unanimously by both segments — Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Council of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).
"The decision [to strike] was made following over three months of negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP," according to an official WGA Nov. 2 release. "To date, the studios have not responded to a single one of the WGA's important proposals, including Internet reuse, original writing for new media, DVDs, and jurisdiction."
A Nov. 4 statement from AMPTP President Nick Counter read: "Notwithstanding the fact that negotiations were ongoing, the WGA decided to start their strike in New York. When we asked if they would 'stop the clock' for the purpose of delaying the strike to allow negotiations to continue, they refused.
"We made an attempt at meeting them in a number of their key areas including Internet streaming and jurisdiction in New Media. Ultimately, the guild was unwilling to compromise on most of their major demands. It is unfortunate that they choose to take this irresponsible action."
The WGA's Nov. 4 released statement read as follows: "Early today, the WGA completely withdrew its DVD proposal, which the Companies said was a stumbling block. Yet, the Companies still insisted on the following:
A 'window' of free reuse on the Internet that makes a mockery of any residual. "The AMPTP made no response to any of the other proposals that the WGA has made since July. The AMPTP proposed that today's meeting be 'off the record,' meaning no press statements, but they have reneged on that."
The 1988 strike lasted 22 weeks.