(Updated with more deal details & analysis) After almost five months, the Writers Guild’s strike will be officially over at 12:01 am PT Wednesday.
“Today, your Negotiating Committee, the WGAW Board and WGAE Council all voted unanimously to recommend the agreement,” the guild said today of tentative agreement worked out with the studios and streamers on Sunday. “It will now go to both Guilds’ memberships for a ratification vote. Eligible voters will receive ballot and materials for the vote which will take place from October 2nd to October 9th.”
“The term of the agreement is September 25, 2023 through May 1, 2026,” the WGA asserted in their note to members Tuesday. According to the guild, writers can return to work while the ratification process plays out.
Delivering on issues that many scribe saw as core to their profession, the deal contains big leaps in AI guardrails, residuals and data transparency for writers — leaps that could be transplanted into the upcoming negotiations between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA, which could start in the next week.
“The Guild negotiated a new residual based on viewership,” they told members. “Made-for HBSVOD series and films that are viewed by 20% or more of the service’s domestic subscribers in the first 90 days of release, or in the first 90 days in any subsequent exhibition year, get a bonus equal to 50% of the fixed domestic and foreign residual, with views calculated as hours streamed domestically of the season or film divided by runtime. For instance, projects written under the new MBA on the largest streaming services would receive a bonus of $9,031 for a half-hour episode, $16,415 for a one-hour episode, or $40,500 for a streaming feature over $30 million in budget. This bonus structure will take effect for projects released on or after January 1, 2024.”
“The Companies agree to provide the Guild, subject to a confidentiality agreement, the total number of hours streamed, both domestically and internationally, of self-produced high budget streaming programs (e.g., a Netflix original series),” they added. “The Guild may share information with the membership in aggregated form.” Read the full note sent to WGA members, with links to the agreement and a summary, below.
According to the guild, scribes can return to work while the ratification process plays out.
If, on the off chance that members reject the tentative agreement that was worked out on Sunday, the strike will start back up again. At 148 days, the strike will be just a few days short of being the guild’s longest ever — the strike of 1988 lasted 153 days.
In terms of minimum salaries, the WGA got the same pay raises that the Directors Guild got without striking. In June, the DGA got annual pay raises of 5%-4%-3.5% over the life of the contract. That’s 13% compounded over three years. The DGA also got an additional 0.5% to fund a new parental leave benefit. The WGA won paid parental leave in 2020.
The WGA also got 5%-4%-3.5%, but notes in its summary of the Memorandum of Agreement that “Some minimums and rates increase less, mostly by 3% each year, while a few rates increase only once or do not increase over the contract. These exceptions are the result of patterns established in the industry.”
Going into the negotiations, the WGA had asked for 6%-5%-5% pay increases, which is 16.87% compounded over three years. According to the WGA, the AMPTP’s offer just before the strike began was only 4%-3%-2%, which is 9.26% compounded over three years.
In August 11, the AMPTP raised its offer to what the DGA got, which is what the WGA has now gotten.
The WGA, however, made a huge gain in its demands for minimum staffing and duration of employment in TV writers’ rooms. Previously, there had been no minimum staffing, but come December 1, development rooms (aka pre-greenlight rooms) and regular writers’ rooms for television and HBSVOD series will have requirements regarding the minimum number of writers who must be hired and the duration of their employment.
According to the guild’s summary, “These new provisions go into effect for seasons where the first episode is written after December 1, 2023 assuming ratification in October.
“Development rooms: Once three writers are convened before a series order, at least three writer-producers (including the showrunner) are guaranteed 10 consecutive weeks of employment.
“Development rooms where writers are guaranteed 20 weeks of work or more are treated as post-greenlight rooms. For these rooms on first season shows, the minimum staff size required will be 3 writer-producers (including the showrunner). For these rooms in the second or subsequent season of a show the required minimum number of writers is determined by the anticipated episode order.”
For post-greenlight rooms, a formula has been worked out for minimum staffing that depends on the number of episodes ordered, unless a single writer is engaged to write all episodes.
The minimum staff must also be guaranteed at least 20 weeks or the entire duration of the post-greenlight room, whichever is shorter. If there was a development room, the two writer-producers who worked in the development room must be hired for the writers’ room. Weeks worked in the development room can be credited against the guaranteed weeks in the writers’ room, but development room compensation cannot be credited.
For writers in production on single-camera series made for HBSVOD and Pay TV that are exclusively filmed in the US and Canada, two writer-producers must be employed for the lesser of 20 weeks of production or the duration of production along with the showrunner. The two writer positions can be used for more than two writers provided that the total weeks worked by the additional writers adds up to the minimum required number for each position.
Many observers opined that the guild would never get minimum staffing written into its contract.
Artificial Intelligence was another key strike issue, and here, too, the WGA made significant gains.
Under the terms of the agreement, “AI can’t write or rewrite literary material, and AI-generated material will not be considered source material” under the contract, meaning that AI-generated material can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit or separated rights.
The summary notes that “A writer can choose to use AI when performing writing services, if the company consents and provided that the writer follows applicable company policies, but the company can’t require the writer to use AI software (e.g., ChatGPT) when performing writing services.”
The Company must also disclose to the writer if any materials given to the writer have been generated by AI or incorporate AI-generated material, and the WGA says that it “reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by MBA or other law.”
Writing teams will also see increased pension and health contributions as if they were a single writer. Long been a goal of the guild, its initial proposal was rejected by the AMPTP before the strike, but has now been achieved.
Under the new deal, each writer on a writing team employed for a script will receive pension and health contributions up to the relevant cap as though they were a single writer, rather than splitting the applicable cap. In addition, when a writing team is employed on a series, the contribution for each writer on the team will be made on the full weekly minimum instead of one-half of the weekly minimum.
The deal was reached just before sundown on September 24 with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Soon afterwards, the guild’s Negotiating Committee told members that “this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.” Key strike issues included wages, streaming residuals, protections against the abuse of Artificial Intelligence, and minimum staffing and duration of employment in TV writers’ rooms.
“What we have won in this contract,” the Negotiating Committee continued, “is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty” that came with the strike. “It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal.”
Prior to the Board and Council votes, the guild and the AMPTP put the final touches on their Memorandum of Agreement, which details all the deal points. After that, the WGA Negotiating Committee voted to recommend it to the Board and Council for their approval. As part of the process, the Board and Council also voted to lift what the guild calls a “restraining order” to end the strike at a certain date and time, to be determined, pending ratification. 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.
Here’s the full message the Negotiating Committee sent to members Tuesday:
“As we reported on Sunday, the WGA reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on a new three-year Minimum Basic Agreement. Today, your Negotiating Committee, the WGAW Board and WGAE Council all voted unanimously to recommend the agreement. It will now go to both Guilds’ memberships for a ratification vote. Eligible voters will receive ballot and materials for the vote which will take place from October 2nd to October 9th.
“The WGAW Board and WGAE Council also voted unanimously to lift the restraining order and end the strike as of 12:01 am PT/3:01 am ET on Wednesday, September 27th. This allows writers to return to work during the ratification process, but does not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval.
“Now that we have finalized the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), we can share details of this exceptional deal, with gains and protections for members in every sector of the business:
MBA 2023 Contract Materials:
Contract Informational Member Meetings:
We are convening meetings this week so current members can hear from the Negotiating Committee, Board and Council, and have the opportunity to ask questions about the agreement before the ratification vote.
- NYC: Wed. September 27th, 7:00 pm ET at the Manhattan Center. Doors open with snacks and refreshments 6:00 pm. RSVP
- Los Angeles: Wed. September 27th, 7:00 pm PT at the Hollywood Palladium. Doors open with snacks and refreshments 6:00 pm. RSVP
- Zoom meeting: Thurs. September 28th, 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET RSVP
- Zoom meeting: Fri. September 29th, 11:00 am PT/2:00 pm ET RSVP
“Please try to be with us in-person on Wednesday either in NYC or LA. We did this together and it would be good to gather again to honor both our strike and what we’ve accomplished. We look forward to discussing the deal with you.”