Soap Opera Writers Being Bullied Into Signing Waivers Cutting Pay and Scripts?

According to a story on Deadline.com, more and more soap opera writers are being “bullied” by producers into requesting waivers from the WGA to take pay cuts. Deadline sites guild sources, one of whom described it as a “particularly insidious” problem that’s “cropping up regularly on daytime TV.” The guild has been powerless to do anything about it because the writers are afraid that they’ll lose their jobs if they speak up.

WGA sources say that veteran CBS soaps The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless are the ones the guild has received the most complaints about. The guild’s contract requires a show’s soap writers to be given one assignment a week, but writers can ask for a waiver to cut back on the workload if they have a legitimate reason, such as illness or a family emergency.

Some producers allegedly have been gaming the system by bullying less-favored writers into asking the guild for waivers to reduce their assignments by one or more a month, even though they actually want to continue working full time. Sources say that some writers have been forced to give up a script or two a month so that an actor or a line producer can write a show or so a new writer can be brought in at no extra cost.

The contract language governing these waivers was meant to protect writers by mandating that the request come from the writer. If it does, the contract requires the guild to grant the waiver, but if the guild determines that it originated from the company, it can refuse. The guild, however, has yet to deny such a waiver requested by a soap writer.

Guild records show that from June 2014 through June 2015, the guild granted 23 such waivers to soap writers – 16 on CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful, six to writers on the network’s The Young and the Restless, and one to a writer on NBC’s Days of our Lives. In the previous year, writers on B&B requested another 11 waivers, and Y&R writers asked for two.

“The number of waiver requests have multiplied over the last decade,” said Karen Harris, a WGA board member and former chair of the guild’s Daytime Writers Committee who sits on the guild’s Waiver Committee. “Hardly a month goes by when we don’t have a waiver request or two.”

Harris said that she has seen soap writers’ personal service agreements that “memorialize a reduced guarantee along with the condition that the writer seek a waiver every 13 weeks.” This, she believes, “demonstrates coercion on the part of the company and establishes that the waiver requests are often not truly ‘initiated’ by the writers as required by the MBA.”

We Love Soaps reached out to The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless reps but has yet to receive a reply. The Deadline story gives one perspective but obviously there are many more.

4 comments:

  1. Didn't Lawrence Saint-Victor writer a B&B script earlier this year? I'm all for adjusting the rules if it means new bloods gets a chance to write in daytime.

    It's hard to have a lot of sympathy when the day-to-day scripts, as well as the overarching stories, are not consistently.

    B&B is the best IMO so it's surprising to see them on the list but if it happens to allow new writers a chance, good.

    GH has the worst scripts and their writers aren't asked to get waivers or take pay cuts? They should be leading the pack finding new blood instead or recycling the same writers time after time.

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  2. How can an actor who is in SAG be allowed to write a script when not in WGA? I know on sets you can not do certain things because that job is reserved for someone in a particular union, so isn't it the same for writers?

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    1. Aren't some daytime writers not in the union anymore, ever since the last WGA strike? They went fi-core. Does that still exist?

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  3. With so little protections for professional writers in the daytime drama industry, it's no wonder these soaps cannot attract new talent. What emerging writer who cares about their craft wants to work for an industry that has so little regard for their talent? Better to write for the web.

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