Members of the DGA have three weeks to vote on a new three-year deal its negotiating committee reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers late last month. Ratification packages were sent out this week to the 15,000 DGA members with a January 7, 2014 due date for returning ballots. “This ballot represents your highest responsibility as a Guild member and the core of why the Guild has existed and remained strong for over 77 years – to protect your economic and creative rights and freedoms. The Negotiations Committee and the Guild’s National Board unanimously – and enthusiastically – recommend that you vote YES for ratification of the Agreements,” said guild president Paris Barclay in an accompanying letter. In his first contract agreement as DGA boss, Barclay didn’t go soft on selling the deal to his members, playing up the wage increase provisions. “We successfully achieved critical gains for DGA members in a number of significant areas – the most important of which was to increase wages significantly for members by “breaking the 2s” – the pattern set after the economic downturn of 2008 that affected labor negotiations throughout the industry and resulted in 2% annual wage increases, at best”, he wrote in pitch to members dated December 13. “We succeeded – resulting in what will be 3% wage increases annually.”
The board rubber-stamped the deal with AMPTP on November 23, a day after three weeks of negotiations concluded. In addition to the wage increase, the agreement calls for a slight increase to Pension Plan contributions, establishes new benchmarks for high-budgeted new-media productions, and new creative rights standards. When approved, the new Basic Agreement and the Freelance Live and Tape TV Agreement will run from July 1, 2014-June 30, 2017. The current deal is set to expire June 30, 2014. The last contract was approved on January 18, 2011 when members “overwhelmingly voted” for it.
As usual, the DGA was the first of the guilds this time round to reach a deal with the studios and networks. While gearing up, neither the WGA nor SAG-AFTRA have set a start date for their respective talks with AMPTP. Both are expected to sit down fairly early in the New Year to meet the expiration of their contracts on May 1 and June 30, individually. The WGA announced its negotiating committee on November 13 with Captain Phillips scribe Billy Ray and Chip Johannessen as co-chairs and WGAW Exec Director and Chief Negotiator David Young. Of course, the DGA deal means, as it traditionally does, that what that guild received from the AMPTP every other guild will want. With SAG-AFTRA in its first Basic Agreement negotiations since merging in 2012 and with the sunlight between its two current plans, the producers may find themselves wishing the DGA had played its wages victory a bit more low key.