Blockbuster bust-up: Hollywood writers' union sparks industry chaos with first strike in 15 years amid streaming row

2 May 2023, 06:44 | Updated: 2 May 2023, 06:56

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike in 2014 over issues related to pay and working conditions for television writers. The strike began on April 13, 2014 and lasted for 100 days, until July 23, 2014.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike in 2014 over issues related to pay and working conditions for television writers. The strike began on April 13, 2014 and lasted for 100 days, until July 23, 2014. Picture: Alamy
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Television and movie writers are going on strike for the first time in 15 years in a dispute over fair pay in the streaming era.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) said that its 11,500 members will head to the picket lines on Tuesday.

Negotiations between studios and the writers, which began in March, failed to reach a new contract before the writers' current deal expired just after midnight.

All script writing is to immediately cease, the guild informed its members.

The dispute could hit TV and film productions depending on how long the strike lasts.

Late-night US talk shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon are expected to go dark

immediately and air re-runs.

Next to be disrupted could be daytime soap operas since they are traditionally written not long before they are filmed.

Netflix, which makes shows around the world, has said it can feed its service with shows produced outside the US but its US-based series will be affected if a strike drags on.

Writers say they have suffered financially during the streaming TV boom, in part due to shorter seasons and smaller residual payments.

They are seeking pay increases and changes to industry practices they say force them to work more for less money.

Half of TV series writers now work at minimum salary levels, compared with one-third in the 2013-14 season, according to Guild statistics.

Listen to LBC on Global Player: Podcasts, news and radio highlights
Listen to LBC on Global Player: Podcasts, news and radio highlights. Picture: Global Player

The board of directors for the WGA, which includes both a West and an East branch, voted unanimously to call for a strike, effective at the stroke of midnight. Writers, they said, are facing an "existential crisis".

"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," the WGA said in a statement.

"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."

Writers last went on strike in 2014
Writers last went on strike in 2014. Picture: Alamy

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade association that bargains on behalf of studios and production companies, signalled late on Monday that negotiations fell short of an agreement before the current contract expired.

The AMPTP said it presented an offer with "generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals".

In a statement, the AMPTP said that it was prepared to improve its offer "but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to insist upon".

Streaming has exploded the number of series and films that are annually made, meaning more jobs for writers. But WGA members say they are making much less money and working under more strained conditions.

When Hollywood writers have gone on strike, it has often been lengthy. The longest WGA strike on record was in 1988, lasting 153 days, followed by the 1960 strike at 146 days, and then the 2007-08 strike at 100 days.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Rishi Sunak criticised Labour's proposed plans to tackle migration rates in the UK.

UK would be ‘illegal migration capital of world’ under Labour, Sunak says as he sets out plans to ‘stop the boats’

Labour has made cutting knife crime a 'moral mission' should the party come to power

Labour makes cutting knife crime a 'moral mission' as Starmer proposes new child criminal exploitation offence

Spanish police are investigating if Jay's 'background' is relevant to the disappearance.

Spanish police searching for Jay Slater investigate if teenager’s background is ‘relevant’ to his disappearance

Lord Kinnock has said he would not wish being part of the current Tory government on his 'most bloodthirsty enemies'.

‘I wish I was fighting this lot’, ex-Labour leader Lord Kinnock says as he brands current Tory party 'superficial and hollow'

The president of Finland has said he 'doesn't agree with many things' Nigel Farage says in response to his comments on the war in Ukraine.

'Absolutely not': Finland's president dismisses Nigel Farage’s claim that Nato provoked Russia's war in Ukraine

A man went missing in the water off Bournemouth beach (file image)

Huge search operation launched for man missing in water off Bournemouth beach

Bosses face £1,000 fine for letting employees watch England's Euros clash with Denmark in the office

Offices showing England v Slovenia Euros clash could face hefty £1,000 fine

Princess Anne has been injured by a horse

King Charles sends 'fondest love’ to Princess Anne who will ‘quickly bounce back’ after being hit by horse

Callum the stag was "humanely euthanised".

Tourists blamed for death of 'legendary' stag after it was fed Rice Krispies and croissants

The Reform UK leader's comments came as he spoke to supporters at a rally in Kent on Tuesday, slamming the current government's ability to control immigration.

Farage warns of Channel migrant 'invasion' from countries 'with terrorism, gang culture and war zones'

Gavin Plumb is accused of plotting to kidnap Holly Willoughby

Obsessed security guard ‘plotted to keep Holly Willoughby in dungeon where screams couldn't be heard for miles'

At least two people have died in the fire

At least two dead as Moscow defence research centre bursts into flames ‘with staff trapped inside’

Parisians along River Seine, below Cathedral Notre Dame celebrate Fête de la Musique - annual city-wide music festival each June

British woman 'gang-raped in Paris at music festival'

Florida rapper Julio Foolio has been shot dead

Florida rapper Julio Foolio shot dead during his birthday in Florida

Meg Bellamy played Kate Middleton in The Crown

The Crown star Meg Bellamy reveals trolls branded her 'too fat' to play Kate in the show

Jay Slater's father has urged people to come forward if they have any information on his son's disappearance

'Someone must know something': Jay Slater's father speaks out as search for missing son stretches into second week