On-line voting began today for the ratification of the new WGA film and TV contract, which guild leaders say contains gains “valued at more than $200 million over three years,” including a 46% increase in residuals for high-budget Subscription Video on Demand programs. Voting will conclude on July 29, and a membership meeting will be held via teleconference on July 20 to discuss the terms of the new pact, which has received the unanimous support of both the WGA West’s Board and the WGA East’s Council.
Here’s a summary of the terms provided by the guild:
Term of Agreement: The term of the agreement is May 2, 2020 through May 1, 2023.
Increased Pension Plan Contributions:
The pension plan contribution on reportable earnings will increase 1.5% (points) at the start of the agreement – from 8.5% to 10% for most earnings and from 7% to 8.5% for pilots and first seasons of one-hour dramas. The Guild has the right to divert an additional 1.25% (total) from various minimum increases in the second and third years of the contract, which could bring the total pension contribution rate to 11.25% by May of 2022.
Increases in Minimums:
Most MBA minimums will increase 1.5% in the first year of the contract, 3% in the second year of the contract, and 3% in the third year of the contract. Some minimums and rates increase less, typically 1% in the first year and 2.5% in the second and third years, or increase only once or twice during the contract. A few items do not increase in the contract. Most of these exceptions are the result of patterns established in the industry. The WGA will have the option to divert 0.5% from certain minimums into the Pension Plan in the 2nd year, and 0.75% in the 3rd year.
Script Publication Fee: The Script Publication Fee for credited screenwriters will increase by $2,500, to $12,500.
High Budget Subscription Video on Demand (HBSVOD) Terms:
Residuals for HBSVOD programs generally increase 46% due to changes in several factors in the formula for calculating the residual.
• High Budget SVOD thresholds will be lowered so that more series and programs will qualify as “high budget,” allowing more writers to earn guaranteed minimums and fixed residuals for their work. The new thresholds and effective dates are as follows:
o 20-35 minute programs: $1,000,000 and above (down from $1,300,000), effective the first Sunday following the AMPTP’s receipt of notice of ratification ($1,030,000 and above, effective May 2, 2022)
o 36-65 minute programs: $1,700,000 and above (down from $2,500,000), effective the first Sunday following the AMPTP’s receipt of notice of ratification ($1,750,000 and above, effective May 2, 2022);
• The bases for domestic streaming residuals will increase by 7.5% in both the first and second years of the contract;
• The percentages of the base for domestic streaming residuals will increase to 45%, 40%, and 35% in the first three years of use, up from 35%, 30%, and 30%, respectively;
• The rates for foreign streaming residuals will increase to 35% of the domestic residual for each exhibition year beyond the first three years, where it previously declined over time;
• Most HBSVOD series that were licensed prior to the 2020 MBA will no longer be exempt from the improved residuals for seasons that begin principal photography after July 1, 2021;
• We agreed to subscriber tiers for Apple TV+, Peacock, Amazon, and HBO Max, which determine which minimums and residuals apply to writing for those HBSVOD platforms, as well as a mechanism for reassessing the tiers during the term of the agreement if necessary; and
• We clarified how and when subscribers of HBSVOD platforms are to be counted to help determine the right amounts due for initial compensation and residuals.
Portable Paid Parenting Benefit:
In the 2017 agreement, we negotiated unpaid parenting leave for the first time ever. In the new agreement, starting in May 2021, writers who qualify for Guild health insurance will be entitled to a paid benefit to assist them with the birth or adoption of a new child, or the placement of a foster child. The payment will be funded by a 0.5% employer contribution on earnings commencing at the beginning of the contract. This benefit will be coordinated with state benefits, if available. The fund will be administered by Health Fund trustees, who will finalize the details in the coming months.
Elimination of Discounts to Minimums:
The below-minimum “new writer” discounts for screen and television writers and the writers’ training program that undercut minimums and disproportionately impacted writers in underrepresented groups have been eliminated.
Meetings with Studios to discuss Inclusion & Equity and Anti-Harassment programs:
The Guild has enhanced the contractual right to meet with employers about their inclusion and equity programs and anti-harassment measures.
Improved Options, Exclusivity, and Span Protections:
• The salary limit under which options and exclusivity protections apply will increase from $280,500 to $325,000 in May of 2021;
• The first position option period will be reduced from 90 to 60 days, after which a company must pay to hold the writer in first position or the writer is free to find another job;
• Writers working on a project for 8 weeks or less will have more protections; in such cases, the company is prohibited from negotiating an option for future work unless the work starts immediately after the initial short employment; and
• Span protections will be expanded to cover more writers working on short orders, by increasing the cap on earnings from $350,000 to $400,000 ($375,000 for basic cable employment) for contracts made after the ratification date.
Other Changes (Company Proposals Patterned on Other Guild Deals)
• We agreed to change fixed residuals for broadcast syndication sales of dramatic programs to 2% of the company’s accountable receipts for series licensed to the syndication market after July 1, 2020;
• We agreed to reduce fixed residuals for the first two seasons of new, low-budget non-dramatic programs made for broadcast and rerun in syndication;
• We agreed to a fixed residual payment when high-budget SVOD programs are exhibited on a related ad-supported online streaming platform;
• We agreed to accommodate the situation where a program is made for one market but initially exhibited in another, by agreeing to use the residual terms for the market in which the program is initially exhibited;
• We agreed to increase the thresholds under which the terms and conditions for employment on basic cable dramatic programs can be negotiated with the Guild. The new thresholds, effective the first Sunday following the AMPTP’s receipt of notice of ratification, are:
– 15 minute program: $300,000
– 30 minute program: $550,000
– 60 minute program: $1,200,000
– 90 minute program: $1,500,000
– 120 minute program: $1,500,000
• We agreed that first class flights are not required for domestic and international flights of less than 1,000 airline miles; and
• We agreed that television rights, series sequel rights and MOW sequel rights in MBA Article 16.B.2. include new media rights for all programs, the literary material written for which was written under any predecessor MBA to the 2008 MBA.
Showrunner Training Program:
We reached an agreement to renew $250,000 in annual funding for the Showrunner Training Program.
We agreed to replace three arbitrators on the eligible list to hear MBA claims in Los Angeles. We removed one arbitrator and added three to the New York list.
Tri-Guild Audit Program:
We renewed funding for Tri-Guild auditing of residuals payments for the term of the agreement.
• The Guild agreed that when an AMPTP member company seeks to add an affiliated or related entity as a signatory to the MBA and provides a guarantee for that entity, the entity shall be added as a signatory to the MBA and not through signing a Letter of Adherence;
• The parties added to the existing list of waivers of local and municipal sick time laws;
• The parties agreed to renew sunset clauses in various provisions of the MBA;
• The Guild agreed to exclude certain COVID-19 related costs from budget thresholds;
• The Guild agreed to work with the companies to implement email delivery of notices of tentative writing credits to television writers; and
• We agreed to allow companies to electronically pay residuals instead of paper checks if a writer opts in to direct deposit through a system currently in development.
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