By Biodun Busari
More than 11,000 television and film writers in the United States have embarked on strike for the first time in 15 years following the deadlock of negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Hollywood studios.
The guild said the walkout began at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, when the contract that was in force ran out, CBS News said on Tuesday.
The union had been negotiating with Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount, Sony, Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Disney, all represented under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
According to CBS News, the labour dispute could have a spilling effect on TV and film productions depending on the duration of the strike persists.
But a shutdown has been widely forecast for months due to the scope of the discord. The writers voted overwhelmingly last month to authorise a strike, with 98% of members supporting it.
The writers were demanding more pay for their members after they said they were “doing more for less.”
Colbert taped his show Monday while talks were continuing, but expressed support for the union.
After showing a composite picture of all the show’s writers, he said, “They’re so important to our show. …Everybody including myself hopes both sides reach a deal.
“But I also think that the writers’ demands are not unreasonable. I’m a member of the guild. I support collective bargaining. This nation owes so much to unions.”
He added, “Just in case there is a strike, and we have to go off the air,” before going into a comedy routine about news events that could happen.
The guild announced the sites where picketing would begin Tuesday.
The board of directors for the WGA, which includes both a West and an East branch, voted unanimously to call for a strike. Writers, they said, are facing an “existential crisis.”
“Though we negotiated intent on making a fair deal — and though your strike vote gave us the leverage to make some gains — the studios’ responses to our proposals have been wholly insufficient, given the existential crisis writers are facing,” the guild wrote to its members.
“The companies’ behaviour has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing.
“From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a ‘day rate’ in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labour force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.”