NEW YORK, Dec. 13 — In response to statements by the Writer’s Guild of America West last week that there was no “ramp-up” by the studios and networks related to their last minute bargaining strategy in 2001, IATSE released hard numbers contradicting the claim. The hours reported to the Union’s benefit plans dropped sharply in the period immediately following expiration of the WGA contract in May, 2001. A new writers contract was agreed to in June a month after the expiration.
The number of contribution hours received by the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans for production workers were down by 27% when comparing the two quarters prior to WGA negotiations with the two quarters after. Film L.A., Inc. (formerly the Entertainment Industry Development Corp.), charged with issuing permits for Los Angeles location shoots shows similarly dismal data for both TV and feature films on their web site. There were fewer feature permits issued just after WGA negotiations in the last two quarters of 2001 then in any other year from 1993 to the present. Sharp declines in permits persisted through the second quarter of 2002, failing to rebound for a full year after negotiations. A snapshot comparing post WGA negotiation permit levels shows:
– a 37% decrease from 3rd quarter 2001 as compared to 2000
– a 54% decrease from 4th quarter 2001 as compared to 2000
– a 58% decrease from 1st quarter 2002 as compared to 2001
– a 41% decrease from 2nd quarter 2002 as compared to 2001
“The numbers speak for themselves and show that the WGA leadership is totally out of touch with the impact of their foolhardy tactics”, said Thomas C. Short, IATSE International President. The drop in contribution hours of 27 % is indicative of the pattern for all production workers and industry support services, including those represented by other unions or guilds as well as unrepresented employees. “It comes as no shock that the WGA is ignoring history. Perhaps they see no noticeable pattern becausewriters continue to write and deliver scripts throughout these disputes,” said Short. When asked about the disparity between the perspectives, Short replied: “Figures don’t lie, liars figure.”
The movie studios and television networks have repeatedly stated that, if need be, they will ramp-up production and stockpile product to weather a writers strike. WGA President Patrick Verrone called the threat a “Boogeyman.”
Industry insiders suggest the writers were no better off for negotiating last minute in 2001 and believe they would have achieved more without the antics. In those talks they failed to make significant headwayon their primary issue of residuals.