WGA Strike & Labor Disputes In the Indian Context



The strike called by the Writers Guild Of America (WGA) in early May this year, ended after the writers reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance Of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on September 27.

WGA represents 11,500 screenwriters who contribute immensely to the entertainment industry, both TV and cinema. They went on a nearly 5 month strike over some significant labor disputes, which nearly crippled film and television production in Hollywood. Although, the Screen Actor’s Guild-American Federation of Screen and Television Radio Artists (SAG-AFSTRA) strike still continues, the negotiations have already begun this month.

While there are many issues and disputes that contributed to the culmination of such a large scale strike, let us examine the primary causes-

  • As a result of the upsurge of viewership witnessed in the online streaming industry, the traditional Television and Movie Industry suffered. Moreover, unlike Broadcast Television, the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) does not apply to the streaming platforms. The MBA was a collective bargaining agreement that covered WGA writers and the work done by them. Therefore, the writers for online streaming platforms like Netflix, Apple TV and others did not have the cover of MBA and had to negotiate with the concerned streaming platform individually which meant that those working in Television made substantially more than those working on streaming platforms for the same amount of work.
  • WGA also expressed scepticism regarding the widescale use of ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence by studios and demanded that they be used only as tools to help research or facilitate script ideas, not as a tool to replace the screenwriters.
  • The Guild argued that terms such as ‘mandatory staffing’ and ‘duration of employment’ must be included in their contracts, which would require a minimum number of writers working for a set period of time. Apart from this, the Guild also sought for pension for the screenwriters and healthcare funds.

Following a series of meetings between the Guild and heads of major studios as well as streaming platforms in September, the WGA decided to end the strike on September 27.

While the strike was ongoing, a first of its kind survey was conducted by Ormax media along with Tulsea, a talent agency. The said survey was conducted amongst 217 film and screenwriters in India to understand their perspective on writing for the entertainment industry in the country. The survey revealed some compelling data.

As per the said survey report, an overwhelming majority (91%) believe that a hybrid pay model would be desirable as it would comprise of a fixed pay as well as a bonus/incentive criteria. This would motivate them to do better quality work. However, only 31% of the writers who took the survey have been offered such a contract. Moreover, more than 60% believed that are not paid fairly. A major reason for such a sentiment amongst the writers is also that in India, the scope of work expands after contracts are signed without the inclusion of any additional fee for such extra work, the report finds.

While lending support to the writer’s strike in Hollywood, the Screenwriters Association (SWA) in India also pointed out that presently contracts are one-sided in favour of streaming platforms and producers. Thus, the Indian Film and Television industry ought to get ahead of the potential problems faced by screenwriters in the country’s so that a large scale strike like the one in Hollywood is avoided as it will cause tremendous strain on the producers as well streaming platforms in the long run.


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