No Strike This Time: WGA and Producers Make Deal

Deal's terms fall in line with the soft 2% wage-increase pattern set late last year when SAG and AFTRA carved out their agreement with the AMPTP

There will be no strike this time.

The Writers Guild of America informed its membership body Sunday that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The two sides were able to come to terms six weeks before the current contract expires in May.

Of course, the last time they tried this, back in 2008, the process broke down into a strike that lasted well into the next year and crippled the motion-picture and TV industries.

The agreement is in line with previous patterns set late last year by the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of TV and Radio Artists, who negotiated their major contract first and set a precedent for 2 percent annual wage increases.

Two percent is pretty much what everyone's agreeing to this time around.

The WGA's new three-year agreement does call for a 1.5 percent increase in pension-plan contributions from employers, going up from 6 percent to 7.5 percent.\

Pay TV residuals also went up by 20 percent.

Here's the letter that was sent out Sunday to WGA members, who must now ratify the contract:

Dear WGAW Member,

We are pleased to inform you that our negotiators have concluded a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Talks began on March 3 and ended today at 3:30 p.m. The three-year deal features significant gains in contributions to our pension fund, improves payments in Pay TV residuals, increases our minimums, and takes steps to address important workplace issues for screen and television writers. Your Negotiating Committee will meet tomorrow to officially vote on sending the tentative agreement to the WGAW Board of Directors and WGAE Council for approval prior to member r atification.

Highlights of the tentative agreement include:

Pension Plan Increases: The contribution rate to our pension plan will increase by 1.5%, from 6% to 7.5% of applicable compensation and residuals. In this time of financial volatility this increase goes a long way toward allowing the fund to meet its obligations for the foreseeable future. We will also have the option to shift 1/2% from the increase in minimums in the second and third years of the contract to further support the fund. This is a necessary safety measure should continued volatility in the financial markets require its implementation. These two provisions combined make as much as 33% more funding available to the pension fund each year.

Increased Payments in Pay TV: The annual reuse payments for one-half-hour and one-hour programs in Pay TV will increase by 20%. 

Increased Minimums: Minimum scale rates will increase 2% per year.

Workplace Issues: Meetings of the Committees on the Professional Status of Writers for Screen and TV (CPSW) took place during these negotiations. The meetings provided a forum for writers to discuss a wide range of issues with film and television’s top executives. In screen, the topics included sweepstakes pitching and one-step deals. Additionally, contract provisions have been added that require each studio to send to its creative executives a bulletin stating clearly that spec writing is not to be condoned; and that each studio will facilitate an annual meeting with its creative executives and screenwriters from the CPSW. In television the topics discussed included product integration, promotional messages that appear on top of program content, and limiting writer employment option periods on series. Additionally, contract provisions have been added that increase funding for the Showrunner Training Program, provide acknowledgement that studio/network notes should be given in a timely fashion, and require each company to facilitate an annual meeting with its creative executives and television writers from the CPSW.

As part of this overall package the Guilds agreed to several concessions. Network Primetime residuals will now be frozen at the current rates for the term of the new contract. Business class and coach air travel will now be allowed for certain short flights. Promotional uses of clips in new media have been expanded slightly to include certain consumer pay formats.

Unfortunately, there are a few crucial areas where we were unable to make progress during this negotiation. Minimum compensation and residual rates in Basic Cable remain far too low and must still be addressed. We were also unable to clarify our jurisdiction over t he rapidly evolving digital production technologies represented by motion capture. Both of these important issues will require our continued attention.

Additional details of the new contract will be included in the ratification mailing.

We wish to thank our talented professional staff led by WGAW Executive Director and chief negotiator David Young. This agreement could not have been reached without their tireless efforts on behalf of all writers. 

Negotiating Committee Members

John Bowman (Committee Co-Chair)
Billy Ray (Committee Co-Chair)
Chris Albers
Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Andrew Bergman
John Brancato
Adam Brooks
Patti Carr
Tim Carvell
Jonathan Fernandez
Kath erine Fugate
David Goodman
Chip Johannessen
Warren Leight
Damon Lindelof
Julie Martin
Ron Moore
Jeff Nathanson
Jeremy Pikser
Shawn Ryan
Melissa Salmons
Stephen Schiff
Mike Scully
Thania St. John
Steve Zaillian