The WGA, which started negotiations for a new film and TV contract Monday, said today that it’s seeking increased streaming residuals and added protections for the guild’s benefit plans to prevent future pension cuts. On Wednesday, the guild said that it’s also seeking across-the-board increases in script fees and minimum pay rates in its ongoing bargaining with management’s Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
“We need to increase the type of compensation and residuals subject to benefit contributions,” the guild’s negotiating committee said in its latest communique with members. “Most TV residuals generate contributions to the pension plan and health funds, but it’s not the same for streaming residuals. As streaming reuse is replacing TV reruns, streaming residuals need to generate contributions to our benefit funds. We need to change that now before streaming residuals replace other residuals, ultimately putting additional financial pressure on both the pension and health funds.”
The guild also sent members a video (see it below) explaining how its pension plan works and how federal laws have put pressure on all multi-employer pension plans. The guild also noted that “In 1960, striking writers sacrificed in order to create the pension plan WGA members rely on today.”
The guild also noted that in 2017, it threatened to go on strike to protect its health plan. “In 2017, after years of healthcare costs outpacing inflation, we needed more money for our health plan. At the time, our plan was projected to run a deficit of $70 million by 2019. We used our collective power, including taking a strike authorization vote, to secure an increase in the employer contribution rate from 9.5% to 11.5% over the life of the 2017 minimum basic agreement. “Today our health plan is on solid ground; we ran surpluses over the last three years, and increased the number of months our health plan has in reserve.
“Now, we need to secure additional funding from our employers in order to put our pension plan on strong enough financial footing to weather this market downturn and preserve pension benefits for future retirees. Currently, our employers contribute 8.5% of our compensation to the plan, which totals almost $150 million annually. While our pension plan is designed to pay out benefits over many decades, federal legislation mandates a short-term focus on investment returns that can threaten our benefits. In 2006, Congress passed the Pension Protection Act, which added new requirements for pension plans like ours that could require us to make changes quickly in response to a short-term decline in investment returns.
“Due to this law, and lingering effects of the 2008 market crash, a severe enough market downturn could force us to make future benefit cuts.”
The guild, however, said that “An increase in the employer contribution rate is not enough. We need to substantially increase the caps on contributions for screenwriters and writers of long-form TV. Members of (writing) teams should get full contributions for their work as individuals, not on reduced amounts simply because they are employed as a team.”
“Our pension plan is a critical source of long-term financial security for middle-class writers, and a benefit that writers who came before us fought hard to achieve,” the guild said. “Even if you’re early in your career and not thinking about retirement, one day it will come, and we want to make certain your WGA pension will be there for you.”
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