Los Angeles, Sept. 5 – The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) announced today the ratification of a new Area Standards Agreement. The agreement covers 8,000 IATSE members working in feature film and television production in most areas of the United States outside of the Los Angeles and New York regions. The IATSE and AMPTP reached a tentative agreement on a new contract on August 24th, and the agreement was subsequently ratified by the IATSE General Executive Board.
The new contract, which will run through July 31, 2015, includes 2 percent annual wage increases and an increase in health plan contributions of $5 per day in each year of the three-year agreement. READ MORE »
UPDATED: The AMPTP has released its own statement:
June 29, 2012 – The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and Basic Crafts Unions announced today that they have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract. The Basic Crafts Unions are Teamsters, Local No. 399, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local No. 40, Plumbers, Local No. 78, Studio Utility Employees, Local No. 724, and Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons, Local No. 755. The terms of the settlement will be subject to ratification by members at a later date.
The Animation Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers announced that they have reached a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement. The tentative pact, which came after Local 839 IATSE reps resumed talks with AMPTP yesterday, will run from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2015. Talks between the guild and the AMPTP broke off April 17, and last week both sides announced they would sit down June 12 for a two-day session. The new deal, which still must go to the guild’s membership for ratification, calls for a 2% annual compound wage increase. It also includes DreamWorks Animation wage minimums, new storyboard revisionist classifications and changes to the talent-development program. According to a source close to the talks, negotiations went late into the night at the AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks offices before a deal was reached at 1 AM. Here’s the release:
First, here’s the announcement from IATSE, which is so furious I broke this news first to the membership today that it deliberately did not …
Los Angeles, March 26 – The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have not completed their negotiation for a new Hollywood Basic Agreement. The parties need additional time to review data before
Below is a composite Q&A that’s the truth your Hollywood Guild leaders are saying in private and not telling you to your faces at a time when nearly all writers, actors, and directors are hanging by their fingernails to maintain their livelihoods under the studio and network rollbacks. Today the WGA membership voted to ratify their new TV/Theatrical Contract reached last month with the AMPTP. I was shocked and appalled by the lack of public dissemination of info by the Guild to its members during the process. But this kind of secrecy has marked all of the Hollywood Guilds dealings with its memberships on these contract negotiations and ratification votes. That’s to cover up the fact that neither SAG nor the DGA nor the WGA bothered to bargain hard for pay increases or barely at all for New Media increases despite promises to that effect during the last contract go-rounds.
I emailed and spoke at length with several members of the WGA negotiating team and board of directors to be able to collect the following behind-the-scenes information (see composite Q&A below). What I learned goes way beyond the ratification ballot statement from negotiating committee co-chairs John Bowman and Billy Ray explaining why the talks had been completed in little more than two weeks blaming “an economy still recovering from a deep recession; an economic pattern set in negotiations with other unions; and the willingness of the Companies to address the Guild’s most pressing economic need, regarding the solvency of the pension plan.” Or the cover letter from WGA West president John Wells and WGA East president Michael Winship that said, “We highly endorse ratification of this contract” and noted the unanimous recommendation of the negotiating committee, WGA West Board and WGA East Council.
Really? REALLY? Then why did one of the above WGA leaders email me to agree when I crapped all over this lousiest of lousy WGA deals with the AMPTP when it was announced a month ago: “Off the record, your analysis of this deal is spot on.”
Who else agreed with me? Stephen Diamond, the Santa Clara University Law professor and one-time candidate for SAG’s executive director, who called the deal a “clean sweep for big Hollywood studios as WGA negotiations end” and “the final domino in this year’s Hollywood collective bargaining round”.
My analysis included calling this the worst deal writers had ever been handed. Saying the Writers Guild leadership clearly decided it had no leverage after the Actors and Directors Guilds threw them under the bus by accepting bad contracts and even the WGA membership gave them no hand by overwhelmingly (and understandably) opposing any mention of a strike. Noting that the Big Media companies finding their financial footing again after the depths of the economic crisis. Stressing that New Media increases have gone the way of the VCR and the DVD: what was negotiated first is what you’re stuck with now and seemingly forever if the AMPTP continues to have its way. Laughing at the flimsy new meetings on sweepstakes pitching and one-step deals, and “contract provisions [which] 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” as if this will stop these hated but institutionalized practices. It’s such a WGA betrayal after guild leadership and Hollywood agencies pledged to work together to stop the studios’ blatant exploitation of movie scribes.
I had long predicted Hollywood could most likely expect quick and easy negotiations this time around. So let’s see… SAG/AFTRA spent just 6 weeks of jointly negotiating with the studios and networks on a new 3-year TV/Theatrical contract. The DGA took just 3 weeks and change. And the WGA could have bargained right up until its May 1st when its current contract ends but didn’t. The moguls behind the AMPTP always intended to negotiate with the writers last (even though their pact was expiring sooner) to ensure there would be the most Hollywood pressure (synonymous with antagonism) towards them if they negotiated too hard. Although SAG/AFTRA and the DGA traded information during their talks, they left the WGA out in the cold.
The whole point of this lead-in to contract negotiations for for all the Hollywood Guilds to better coordinate bargaining in order to present a united front to the AMPTP. Promises were made to “next time” secure better wages, benefits, working conditions. Even the AMPTP pledged it would reopen bargaining over those paltry New Media revenues. True, no one wanted another strike. But was the only alternative for the WGA to wimp out like the other Guilds? So now all the Hollywood Guilds rubber-stamped what crumbs the AMPTP offered despite this rapidly improving economy. The DGA was first to make it plain early on that they weren’t going for big wages (just a 2% increase) or even a better New Media deal. Instead the DGA negotiators were focusing on increased Health Plan and Pension contributions. Same with SAG/AFTRA. The WGA also focused on the pension plan. But all the writers I know in the guild who aren’t yet or once were big names are most concerned about losing their health insurance. Nothing for them.
I’d been pressing the Writers Guild with questions to respond to my analysis that WGA negotiators caved to the studios and networks. I’ve now collected their off-the-record answers (with the proviso that the responders not be identified) and put it into a Q&A format. If you read this and realize how much you and your fellow Hollywood Guild members got played, then hasn’t the time come to throw out all the current bums and install new union leadership?
Here’s the composite Q&A:
DEADLINE: I’m shocked at how bad this deal is. Can you give me insight into what happened?
WGA NEGOTIATIONS INSIDERS: You have it right in your post. The companies singled out the weakest of the Guilds — SAG/AFTRA — to negotiate with first – and for whatever reason, the actors Guilds went along with it. The actors’ health and pension funds were (and are) in dire shape, with significant possible unfunded legal and accounting liabilities for the companies. So the companies put a lot of money on the table to try and shore some of this up (and limit their own liability). The AMPTP then refused to make any movement on anything else of consequence – and the actors accepted the deal. We’ve all know that the actor guilds were in “cave to merge” mode, and that’s exactly what happened. The AMPTP is smart: they forced them to sign an early negotiation clause 18 months ago to close out their last contract and then jammed them.
We don’t want to be too critical here of the actor unions, they’re in very bad shape, SAG in particular. SAG has to merge or they will cease to exist – and soon. They’re certainly in grave danger of no longer being able to provide even the most basic health benefits for all but the most successful of their members. They’ve been raising eligibility and co-pay requirements at a shocking rate that makes it difficult for many of their members to even qualify. Thousands of actors who used to routinely qualify for health benefits that allowed them to pursue the craft can no longer provide security for their families. And both actors unions were very close to being unable to meet their pension obligations and entering the “red” zone. The zone system for evaluating pension plans was enacted during the Bush administration as part of the PPA (Pension Protection Act.) Entering the red zone would have been catastrophic for all actors – and would have allowed the companies to enact draconian measures that could have significantly reduced pensions for actors long retired and dependent on these earned benefits. All that said, they made a crappy deal on everything other than pensions and health and left the other two creative guilds hanging out to dry.
Then came the DGA. Coming in early as they have so often done (jumping in front of our earlier contract date again). They also have problems in their health plan. They took an equivalent amount to the money SAG/AFTRA had gotten, and put it in their health plan. Made some very minor steps in basic cable that we think are counterproductive for writers (increases on very high budget minimums – that only one or two shows will hit, if ever). And called it a day.
Then, and only then, was the AMPTP prepared to have even preliminary conversations with us. Candidly, we were concerned (the leadership and staff) that they were planning to push us into a “take it or leave it” pattern offer right up against our contract expiration date. We felt we could maneuver them into giving us a bit more than the pattern if we could force them into an earlier deadline. We were worried they were going to jam us with rollbacks at the last minute, and if they did, we’d have no time to go back to our members and properly organize to get enough of head of steam going to push the rollbacks off the table.
This was all predicated on what you intimated in your post – our members were not in the mood for a strike unless the companies put significant rollbacks on the table. How did we know this? We asked them. Extensive polling, set visits to TV writer’s rooms and we held membership meetings. The response was overwhelming – “we’re only just beginning to recover financially from the strike and the massive recession” “please, please, please, don’t strike…” So we wanted to go in and see if the companies would be foolish enough to put large rollbacks on the table that we could use to galvanize the membership. They didn’t. Lots of petty crap that we had to get rid of, but nothing to convince the membership to take another strike vote only 3 years after the last.
On top of all of this, our pension fund was (is) in trouble. The stock market hit of 2007-2008 shaved hundreds of millions of dollars off our plan. While not in the same shape as the actors’ funds or the DGA health plan, we were in danger of moving from the good “green” status into the “yellow” danger status – and then into “red” status sometime in 2014 to 2015. The PPA danger to future and present retirees was and is real. The AMPTP knew this because half of the trustees are management trustees and have the same actuarial info we do. We knew we needed the money (1.5% increases in contributions) that the other guilds had gotten to shore up our pension fund, but wanted to try and get something else to go with it. The companies are a little frightened of us – and we tried to jam them to get the pension money we needed and some more in basic and pay. We got a little bit, but not much. And that’s why you didn’t read any self-congratulatory crap in our letter to the membership like you saw from the other Guilds. We did what we could under difficult circumstances. We’re disappointed we couldn’t do more. Relieved we’ve shored up the pension plan and protected our retirees and future retirees.
DEADLINE: What was your biggest obstacle to getting a better deal than this one?
WGA NEGOTIATIONS INSIDERS: We had no credible strike threat, not even vaguely; and we had no effective alliance with either SAG/AFTRA or the DGA. Hence: no leverage. Regardless of contract expiration dates, the AMPTP negotiates first where it can get the best deal, then tries to impose the pattern on everyone else. In the absence of leverage, there’s little that can be done once the first deal is set.
DEADLINE: Is there any good news from what you did get?
WGA NEGOTIATIONS INSIDERS: This deal will cost out to approximately $60M across the life of the contract, as opposed to $40M or thereabouts in the previous negotiations.
UPDATE: Today’s statement by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers:
“Ratification of the new agreement between the AMPTP and the Writers Guild of America is a significant achievement for both parties and an important milestone for the industry. Taking into account the agreement reached with the WGA, the industry has now successfully concluded an agreement with each of the major Guilds over the past six months. Taken together, these agreements will give the industry an opportunity for a sustained period of labor peace.”
To Our Fellow Members:
We are pleased to announce that our joint memberships have ratified our new contract with the AMPTP by an overwhelming majority. With a total of 1,952 valid ballots cast, 90.7 percent voted in favor of ratification. The term of the new deal is from May 2, 2011 through May 1, 2014. We move forward knowing that the significant gains we made in employer contributions to our pension plan better enable it to meet its obligations for the foreseeable future and that we’ve secured increases for reuse payments in Pay TV and increases in minimums.
TENTATIVE WGA-AMPTP CONTRACT: Writers Guild Negotiators Cave To Studios & Networks After Only 2 Weeks; Critics Say “They Accepted Producers’ First Draft”
Email and phone messages already are pouring in about what they’re criticizing as this disaster of a tentative agreement (see WGA West notice to members below). It was reached at 3:30 PM today by the Writers Guild of America negotiators with the Alliance of Motion Picture And Television Producers. It took little more than 2 weeks of bargaining – and no wonder. What a joke. And it comes at a time when nearly all writers are wringing their hands and hanging by their fingernails to maintain their livelihoods under the studio and network cutbacks.
WGA West President John Wells, who is first and foremost a TV producer and patsy for Warner Bros boss and anti-guild hardliner Barry Meyer, looked after his own interests first. He kept his Southland budget down at TNT while also getting a hefty 20% bump for his Shameless writers at Showtime. ”He took care of pay cable while allowing basic cable to make no gains, despite it being the most important area as far as growth. It’s like they accepted the producers first draft,” a source just told me.
Several veteran writers are calling this the worst deal they’ve ever been handed. Clearly, the Writers Guild leadership decided it had no leverage after the Actors and Directors Guilds threw them under the bus by accepting bad contracts and even the WGA membership gave them no hand by overwhelmingly (and understandably) opposing any mention of a strike. Nor did it help that the stock market has been tanking these past two weeks despite all the Big Media companies finding their financial footing again after the depths of the economic crisis.
Here’s more reaction: “Katherine Fugate is congratulating herself on Facebook and calling the committee heroes, but they’re zeroes.”
Also, screenwriters messaging me don’t expect the WGA to protect their interests now any more than the guild has before given the flimsy new meetings on such hated topics as sweepstakes pitching and one-step deals. And who in their right mind believes ”contract provisions [which] 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” can stop this institutionalized practice. It’s all such a WGA betrayal of screenwriters after the guild leadership went around to Hollywood agencies and pledged to work together to stop the studios’ blatant exploitation of movie scribes.
As for New Media increases, they’ve gone the way of the VCR and the DVD: what was negotiated first is what you’re stuck with now and seemingly forever if the AMPTP continues to have its way.
I had predicted Hollywood could most likely expect quick and easy negotiations. So let’s see… SAG/AFTRA spent just 6 weeks of jointly negotiating with the studios and networks on a new 3-year TV/Theatrical contract. The DGA took just three weeks and change. And the WGA could have bargained right up until its May 1st when its current contract ends. Well, why not speed talks along when your Hollywood Guilds are just rubber-stamping what crumbs the AMPTP are offering despite this rapidly improving economy. The DGA was first to make it plain early on that they weren’t going for big wages (just a 2% increase) or even a better New Media deal. Instead the DGA negotiators were focusing on increased Health Plan and Pension contributions. Same with SAG/AFTRA. Now the WGA focused on the pension plan. But all the writers I know in the guold who aren’t yet or once were big names are most concerned about losing their health insurance. There’s no mention of that today.
Hey, wait a minute: didn’t all three guilds promising that they’d do things different and join together and fight, fight, fight for substantially more this contract go-round and their rightful share of the money pie if only members elected more “moderate” leadership than the militants of yore?
Talk about empty promises.
The moguls behind the AMPTP always intended to negotiate with the writers last (even though their pact was expiring sooner) to ensure there would be the most Hollywood pressure (synonymous with antagonism) towards them if they negotiated too hard. Although SAG/AFTRA and the DGA traded information during their talks, they left the WGA out in the cold. True, no one wanted another strike. But was the only alternative for the WGA to wimp out like the other Guilds?
Here’s the WGA West email that went out:
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 ratification.
Highlights of the tentative agreement include:
I had predicted Hollywood could most likely expect quick and easy negotiations. And the DGA’s took just three weeks and change. And why not when your Hollywood Guilds are just rubber-stamping what crumbs the studios and networks are feeding SAG/AFTRA and DGA members despite this rapidly improving economy? The Directors Guild Of America leaders made it plain early on that they weren’t going for big wages or even a substantially better New Media deal (despite promising it would during the last bargaining go-round). Instead the DGA negotiators were focusing on increased Health Plan and Pension contributions, just like they were for SAG and AFTRA. The AMPTP’s current contributions are at 14% for the DGA, and probably go to 16.5% on the new contract if ratified. So that’s three big Guilds down, and only the Writers Guild of America still to go.
No date for the start of negotiations has yet been set for the WGA, whose contract ends May 1, 2011. But the moguls behind the AMPTP always intended to negotiate with the writers last (even though their pact was expiring sooner) to ensure there’s the most Hollywood antagonism towards them. Although SAG/AFTRA and the DGA traded information during their talks, they’ve left the WGA out in the cold. Now you can expect a lot of silly trade stories filled with false rumors about WGA “strike talk” in order to scare the Industry which in turn will pressure the writers to settle quickly. Don’t get me wrong: no one wants another strike so soon. But that also doesn’t mean that the WGA has to wimp out like the other Guilds. Excuse me, but wasn’t this year when all the Hollywood Guilds were going to join together and fight, fight, fight, for what is rightfully their share of the money pie? Anyone? Anyone?
The following statement was issued today by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP):
The Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have successfully concluded a tentative agreement on a new TV/Theatrical contract, again demonstrating the benefits of an early deal for the entire entertainment industry. These early talks allowed us to bridge the gaps created by uncertain economic times and deliver increases in areas critical to DGA members.
The DGA’s chief negotiator Gil Cates said the following:
Los Angeles – The Directors Guild of America today announced that it has concluded a tentative agreement on the terms of a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Negotiations, which began on November 16, concluded this afternoon. Details of the tentative agreement will be released once the agreement has been submitted to the Guild’s National Board for approval at a special board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, December 8.
The DGA’s current contracts expire on June 30, 2011.
The vote by the Joint National Board of SAG and AFTRA comes a month after the two actors union reached a tentative new deal with AMPTP that includes a 2% wage increase a year, a 1.5% boost to health and pension plans and the elimination of a long-standing provision that required first-class air travel for actors. The board is recommending the deal to the two unions’ membership that will now vote on it. Here is the joint SAG/AFTRA release.
Los Angeles (December 4, 2010) – The Joint National Board of Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists today overwhelmingly approved the tentative agreement reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on November 7 – a deal which it is now recommending to the respective union memberships.
Eligible AFTRA and SAG members will vote on the proposed successor agreements to the Producer-Screen Actors Guild Codified Basic Agreement for feature motion pictures, scripted network primetime television and pay television programs; Exhibit A of the AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting, covering scripted network primetime and pay television programs; and the CW Supplement which applies to both unions.
The Board passed the motion to approve and send to the memberships a recommendation of a “yes” vote by 89.29 percent to 10.71 percent.
Ratification ballots will be mailed to all eligible AFTRA and SAG members in the coming days with an expected return date in mid-January. Due to the holidays, the time period for reviewing and returning ballots will be extended to five weeks (rather than the traditional three-week time period) in order to afford every member the opportunity to carefully review the terms of the proposed agreements before voting. Tabulation will occur immediately upon the conclusion of balloting.
Additionally, informational meetings for members will be scheduled in select cities across the country including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Florida, Washington, D. C.-Baltimore, San Francisco and Atlanta.