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Hollywood writers guild ends strike ahead of final contract vote

Hollywood writers guild ends strike ahead of final contract vote
Published September 27, 2023 Updated September 27, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s writers’ union said its members could return to work on Wednesday (Sept 27) while they decide whether to approve a three-year deal that provides pay raises and some protections around the use of artificial intelligence (AI) among other gains.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) leadership voted unanimously to end the strike on Wednesday, the guild said in a statement. The 11,500 members have until Oct 9 to cast their votes on the proposed contract.

The WGA said the estimated value of the deal was US$233 million (S$319 million) per year.

Film and television writers walked off the job in May after failing to reach a deal with major studios, including Netflix, Walt Disney and Warner Bros Discovery.

Writers appeared to have won concessions across the board, with raises over the three years of the contract, increased health and pension contributions, and AI safeguards.

Under the agreement, the studios agreed to meet at least twice a year with the guild to discuss plans to use AI in film development and production.

The studios are not expressly prohibited from using AI to generate content. Writers, however, have the right to sue if their work is used to train AI.

Writers can choose to use AI when drafting scripts, but a company cannot require the use of the software. The studios also must disclose to a writer if any materials were generated by AI.

In other areas, the guild said it won guarantees of minimum staffing in writers’ rooms, a key issue for many of its members. Staffing will be determined by the number of episodes per season. Minimum pay rates will climb by more than 12 per cent over three years.

Also, residuals will rise for the use of TV shows and movies outside of the United States and a bonus will be awarded for the most popular shows on streaming.

“These are essential protections that the companies told us, to our faces, that they would NEVER give us,” writer Adam Conover, a member of the guild’s negotiating committee, posted on social media platform X.

“But because of our solidarity, because they literally cannot make a dollar without us, they bent, then broke, and gave us what we deserve. WE WON,” Mr Conover said.

Television writer David Slack said: “Our strike was necessary. Our strike was effective. Our strike is a victory.”

The strike’s end means daytime and late-night talk shows can return to the air. Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time”, said on social media that he would be back with fresh episodes starting on Friday.

“My writers and Real Time are back!” Maher wrote.

Maher and actress and film producer Drew Barrymore had angered writers by saying this month that their talk shows would return before the strike ended.

The end of the WGA strike does not return Hollywood to normal. The SAG-AFTRA actors union walked off the job in July and remains on strike. REUTERS