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The Writers Guild of America reached a tentative deal with top entertainment companies on a new contract, ending one of Hollywood’s longest labor disputes and moving the industry closer to restarting.

The agreement could bring some relief to an industry that has been thrown into turmoil by dual strikes. However, there’s still a long way to go until Hollywood returns to normal. Both the guild’s board and members need to vote on the deal. And with the union representing actors, SAG-AFTRA, striking separately, work on television shows and movies is unable to resume.

What’s in the agreement?
The Writers Guild was able to secure concessions on most of their demands from the studios, including increases in royalty payments for streaming content and guarantees that artificial intelligence will not encroach on writers’ credits and compensation. After 146 days on strike, the deal was reached after five consecutive days of negotiations.

The use of A.I., one of the main drivers for writers to call a strike, was the last sticking point. Over the weekend, the studios proposed a few paragraphs to be inserted into the new contract that addressed a guild concern about A.I. and old scripts that studios own. The two sides spent several hours negotiating the language on the final night of talks.

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The two sides’ enthusiasm for the contract were on show in how they talked — or didn’t talk — about it. The guild negotiating committee heralded it as a success, telling its 11,000 members in an email that the deal was “exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.” The studios, notably, said nothing on the matter.

What happens next?
Various leadership boards of the Writers Guild are set to vote on whether to approve the contract on Tuesday. If it is approved, the 11,000 or so writers who are members of the guild will then vote to ratify the contract.

After the deal was reached, the guild’s leaders told members that all picketing was now suspended, but warned them not to return to work until the contract was formalized.

Writers may resume work relatively quickly. If union leadership approves the deal, they will also vote whether to end the strike — while the rank-and-file vote is still underway. “This would allow writers to return to work during the ratification vote, but would not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval,” Writers Guild leaders said.

Most television shows and movies will be unable to resume work because actors are still striking. But writers rooms of late-night and daytime talk shows could be back in business soon, potentially bringing relief to one corner of an industry that has been thrown into turmoil.

How does this impact the actors’ strike?
The writers’ agreement will not directly impact the strike by SAG-AFTRA, the union representing more than 150,000 actors. Television and movie actors have been striking separately since July 14, with demands that exceed those of the Writers’ Guild. The studios have called one of the most prominent requests, setting aside 2 percent of the total revenue generated by streaming shows, a non-starter. There are no talks currently scheduled between the two sides.

However, the deal with writers could provide a blueprint for negotiations on some concerns shared by actors. For example, both wanted aggressive guardrails around the use of A.I., with actors worried it could encroach on their livelihoods and be used to create digital replicas of their likenesses without payment or approval.

The Writers’ Guild has encouraged its members to join actors on their picket lines when they resume on Tuesday.

—Courtesy NYT

 

 

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