The Writers Guild of America and the major studios have agreed to start much-anticipated contract negotiations, which were at risk of being derailed by the coronavirus crisis.
After a feisty exchange between the lead negotiators, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the WGA agreed to extend the union’s current contract, which expires May 1, to June 30. They also agreed to begin negotiations via videoconference the week of May 11, the groups said.
The parties previously sparred over whether the negotiations would include extending healthcare eligibility to writers who lost work during the shutdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. AMPTP President Carol Lombardini on Thursday assured WGA lead negotiator David Young that producers would consider extending healthcare eligibility for those writers affected by the downturn.
Lombardini initially deferred Young’s request to include the health plan in the scope of the collective bargaining talks, referring the decision instead to the plan trustees. That drew a sharp rebuke from Young, who called the group “despicable.”
The talks come amid an unprecedented crisis in Hollywood, which has been roiled by the forced shutdowns of productions to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Hollywood’s writers and performers, represented by SAG-AFTRA, will be negotiating new terms over compensation from streaming and will be seeking other improvements to their existing contracts.
“Our entire committee remains committed to gaining the best possible deal for writers,” the WGA said in a message to members viewed by The Times. “Thank you for your encouragement and support as we have prepared for this negotiation.”
The contract extension means writers, many of whom are continuing to work from their homes, will continue to be covered by the current contract through the end of June, the WGA said in its message.