Members of the Writers Guild of America on Wednesday ratified their new feature film and primetime TV contract with Hollywood’s movie studios and networks.
It’s a three-year deal, and replaces the current contract which expires on Thursday. The boards of the WGA West and East units had unanimously recommended approval of the agreement, which was reached in early April with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The membership overwhelmingly voted in favor of ratifying the contract by 98.5 percent. Of the 1,193 valid votes cast there were 1,175 “yes” votes and 18 “no” votes (1.5 percent). There were 8,218 eligible voters.
“Each negotiating cycle is marked by the hard work of the negotiating committee, member volunteers and Guild staff. Our thanks go out to all of those who contributed to the process and to the members who participated in the ratification vote. We continue to build on the battles won by our predecessors and fight for the rights of generations to come,” said WGAW President Chris Keyser and WGAE President Michael Winship.
The AMPTP offered its congratulations on the new Minimum Basic Agreement.
“We were able to achieve this agreement only because the parties were willing to work together to explore solutions to some difficult issues,” the group said in a statement. “We hope to build on that collaborative foundation by encouraging a continuing dialogue with the WGA during the term of the upcoming contract.”
With the WGA deal sealed and the Directors Guild having approved a new contract earlier this year, only SAG-AFTRA is working without a new pact. Talks between the producers and the merged Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are scheduled to begin on Monday.
The WGA’s East and West units represent writers who produce content for TV, movies, news programs, documentaries, animation and new media programs.
The talks began in February and were devoid of public rancor or heated rhetoric. With the DGA reaching its deal before the WGA’s negotiations began, the template for an agreement had been established, and the writers’ deal is comparable to that achieved by the directors in terms of wages and benefits.
The new contract calls for compensation increases over three years of 2.5 percent, 3 percent and 3 percent, as well as a .5 percent increase (to 8.5 percent) in the pension plan contributions.
Additionally, there will be an increase in residuals for Internet streaming and shorter free window, first-ever minimums for high-budget subscription VOD services like Netflix and Amazon, and a hike from $5,000 to $10,000 on the feature script publication fee.
The deal also gives writers more freedom to seek other work when TV shows go on hiatus, which happens more frequently today since many programs, particularly on cable, have shorter seasons. Provisions addressing “exclusivity” for TV were the subject of two final days of bargaining, and were the last to be resolved.