WGA: AMPTP Failed to Comply With Contract

The WGA strike may be over, but according to an arbitration filing by the guild Wednesday, its members have not seen one penny of the new-media residuals agreed upon in their new contract with the members of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

According to the WGA West, the AMPTP has “failed to comply with the contract negotiated at the end of the guild’s 100-day strike and are not paying residuals for writers’ work that is reused on new media.”

The missing payments include reuse of work for programs sold as electronic downloads, also known as Electronic Sell-Through, which involves the sale of video content online that allows the purchaser to keep a copy of the program permanently.

In a statement, the AMPTP responded: “The understanding we reached with the WGA was exactly the same as the one we reached with the DGA. The DGA deal calls for the new EST formula to apply only to motion pictures that are initially released in new media after the effective date of the new agreement.  The producers are implementing the terms of the agreement we made with WGA, just as we have with the other 310 major labor agreements the AMPTP has made over the past 26 years.”

According to John F. Bowman, who sits on the WGAW board and was a member of its 2007 negotiating committee, the agreement with the AMPTP for the downloads covers feature films produced after July 1, 1971, and TV programs produced after 1977.

“The companies have reneged on this agreement and are taking the position that only programs produced after Feb. 13, 2008, are covered by the new provision,” Bowman said. “This may be their deal with the DGA, but that was never our agreement.”

Pursuant to labor laws, the two sides must hash out the issue before a labor commissioner in arbitration rather than in court.

The guild also is preparing to file an additional arbitration case against the AMPTP for residuals it claims are due to its members for TV shows streamed on the Internet. Research by the WGA indicates that shows are staying up on Web sites longer than the 17-day window called for in the new contract.

“This triggers the payment of a residuals, but so far we’ve seen nothing,” WGAW executive director David Young said. “Given the reports by the conglomerates of the growth of the number of shows being streamed and increases in new media revenues, this is an unacceptable situation.”

WGAW president Patric Verrone added that it was “unconscionable” for the AMPTP to claim on its Web site that SAG members — who have been working on an expired contract since July 1 — are missing out on millions in new-media residuals that members of other guilds are already collecting on.

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