The Writers Guild of America East reached first-ever agreements with two New York TV production companies that specialize in reality and documentary programming for basic cable in the U.S. and U.K.
Lion Television and Optomen Productions have signed off on three-year deals for writer-producers that provide weekly compensation minimums, health benefits, a grievance and arbitration process and vacation time. The pacts are for three years and are effective immediately.
The deals are the first in the New York area for the niche production firms, of which there are roughly 20 of varying size. Employees in the growing sector frequently shift employers based on which companies have projects in progress.
The contracts come after roughly a year of bargaining. The two companies were among four at which employees voted to be represented by the WGAE in 2010. Contract talks with Atlas Media are ongoing, while the National Labor Relations Board is reviewing an appeal of the employee election by ITV Studios.
“We’re thrilled with these agreements,” WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson told TheWrap Wednesday. “We applaud these two companies and believe that this will help them attract the top talent in the field.“
The guild's courtship of reality writers has been ongoing since 2005, when the organization launched its "reality rights" campaign. But the move to unionize them hit a setback during the 2007-08 writers strike, when the WGA shelved its reality demands in favor of trying to get a greater share of revenues for its members from new media and DVD markets.
Optomen produces “Worst Cooks in America” for the Food Network in the U.S., “Gok Cooks Chinese” and “Saturday Cookbook” in the U.K. Lion Television produces "Cash Cab" for Discovery, "Money from Strangers" for MTV and "History Detectives" for PBS.