The WGA, in its ongoing negotiations for a new film and TV contract, is asking the companies for paid parental leave and greater safeguards against sexual harassment to make it easier for writers to balance the demands of family and work, and to be able to count on a workplace free of harassment.
“In this negotiation, we need protections to make our workplaces safer, as well as friendlier to a better work-life balance for all writers,” the guild’s negotiating committee said Thursday in its latest message to members about its contract proposals. The talks with management’s AMPTP got underway May 18 after the guild’s current contract, which had been set to expire May 1, was extended to June 30 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Three years ago, we secured up to eight weeks of unpaid parental leave for writers in the MBA (Minimum Basic Agreement),” the guild said. “The provision was the first of its kind in a guild freelance agreement. This time around, we seek a paid benefit for new parents, including foster and adoptive parents.
“We have heard from countless writers about how difficult it is to manage work and bonding with a new addition to the family, without any benefits in place for financial security. The studios provide paid parental leave to their own employees; it is only fair that writers enjoy the same consideration and security.
“Paid leave would be funded by employer contributions and managed through the Health Fund. The MBA benefit would be coordinated with other income replacement benefits that some states provide in connection with pregnancy and parenting leaves.”
The guild said it’s also seeking greater protections against sexual harassment in writers’ rooms. “The studios are responsible for providing a safe and harassment-free workplace,” it said today. “However, even after the exposure of high-profile predators in our industry, many writers feel the current system does not provide adequate protection for them. We propose to work with the studios to create a writer-specific program designed for our unique workplaces, including training for those in senior positions who work with writers and support staff.”
The guild noted, however, that “training is not the end of it. We want to make sure complaints are fully addressed. Writers need to be informed at the time of making a complaint that they have the right to have a guild representative with them. They need to receive a copy of any report on the outcome of an investigation. We are also advocating for industry-wide third-party reporting to address the ability of harassers otherwise to move from studio to studio unchecked.”
The negotiating committee also said it’s seeking a minimum 12-hour turnaround between workdays. “Writers’ rooms that regularly run long hours with no limits are detrimental to all writers, and disproportionately impact those with families. We propose a 12-hour minimum turnaround period for writers. This is modeled on other union and guild contracts that include turnaround periods to protect their members’ health, safety and quality of life.”
The guild also said that it wants an extra week of paid vacation for daytime writers, who work “year-round and face a daunting delivery schedule to meet the need for an endless flow of scripts. We are proposing to decrease the number of years they must work to qualify for a third week of vacation.”
In previous communiques, the guild’s negotiating committee has said that it’s advocating for an across-the-board increase in minimum salaries; tiered bonuses for streaming residuals; greater protections for its pension plan; first-time-ever residuals for theatrical films shown in foreign markets, and better terms and conditions for comedy-variety writers on subscriber-based streaming shows.
Here are links to Deadline’s stories on the previous five WGA communiques:
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