Lion Television and Optomen Productions have become the first non-fiction TV producers to offer writer-producers company-paid health benefits, paid time off, grievance and arbitration provisions, and compensation minimums, according to WGA East. The collective bargaining agreements come after WGAE landed Lion in May 2011 and Optomen in August 2011, and guild brass are calling them first-of-their-kind agreements for the reality industry. “We are very pleased to have reached agreement with Lion and Optomen,” WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson said in announcing the deal. “This is a part of the television industry that has historically been non-union, and these agreements demonstrate that people who join with the WGAE get, not just a community of creative professionals, but tangible improvements in their working conditions.” WGAE says it remains in negotiations with non-fiction TV producer Atlas Media after it voted to join up, and it will begin talks with a fourth, ITV Studios, when the National Labor Relations Board resolves an appeal.
Lion Television, the production company behind Discovery’s Cash Cab, MTV’s Megadrive and PBS’ History Detectives and America Revealed, has agreed to recognize the WGA East as the collective bargaining rep for its writers, producers and researchers, a group of about 100 staffers. It’s the latest pickup for the guild, which has been trying to bring employees at non-fiction basic cable production companies under its umbrella. The Lion TV staff voted for representation in December, and the National Labor Relations Board has certified the results. “We welcome the Lion employees into our creative community, where they will join thousands of other members who do some of the best work in television, film, radio, and digital,” WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson said. “We are pleased that Lion respects their decision to become part of the Writers Guild and we look forward to a long and productive relationship.”
UPDATE: Insiders are telling me that, contrary to this WGAE announcement (below), the WGA has not won this election — yet. One of my sources says, “Both sides are a long way from being in a position to legitimately claim a victory. A number of votes have been challenged by either LionTV or the WGA, thus they have not yet been counted. There will be a process in which the NLRB will decide which of these challenged votes to allow and which to reject. This process will take 2-3 months, at a minimum.”
When I asked the WGAE about the above, a spokeswoman emailed back: “The WGAE has won the vote — but the NLRB has not yet certified the election. That is common. Certification always comes after. There are several vote challenges. As part of its anti-union strategy, LionTV has been manipulating the voter list for several months and is now challenging some votes for reasons such as unreadable signatures. This tactic is a delaying tactic and one that is also meant to disenfranchise unit members. The WGAE did challenge votes from people, we believe, were not eligible to vote but were put on the list by Lion TV. These people include interns, supervisors, and people working offsite and not part of the bargaining unit. While we are challenging these votes, we do not believe our challenges will change the outcome of the election – that
Lion TV writers and producers have voted to join the WGAE.”
Here is the …