PREVIOUSLY, 8:45 AM: Armed with strike authorization, WGA leaders return to the bargaining table today for the final push to reach an agreement with management’s AMPTP on terms for a new film and TV contract. Both sides have pledged to do everything in their power to avert a strike.
Buoyed by an overwhelming show of support for their bargaining position – only 237 writers voted against strike authorization – WGA leaders are expected to hold the line this week on their prime objectives: to save the guild’s ailing health plan, which faces projected deficits of $145 million over the next three years, and to improve the lot of TV writer-producers, who the guild says have seen their average salaries fall by 23% over the last two years, largely because of shortened seasons brought about by a sea change in the TV industry’s business model.
But according to the WGA West’s own records, the average TV earnings of its members actually are on the rise. In 2015, the average TV writer earned nearly $50,000 more than in 2006, nearly $60,000 more than during the strike-shortened 2007, and nearly $20,000 more than in 2010. Average earnings — the amount earned by TV writers divided by the number of TV writers with earnings — in 2015 dipped $3,000 from a high of $197,000 in both 2012 and 2014, but the overall trend has been upward.
WGA officials point to a recent two-season survey to support their position that the average incomes of TV writer-producers are in decline, but the guild’s contract doesn’t cover the wages of producers. The producer fees WGA members make above and beyond their pay as writers are not covered by this or any other collective bargaining agreement and are outside the scope of these contract talks.
Even so, with two-thirds of their eligible members voting and 96.3% of them voting to authorize a strike, the AMPTP must assume that the WGA East and West mean business. And they’ve got a week to work out a deal before the expiration of the current pact at midnight May 1.