WGA Members Overwhelmingly Ratify New Film & TV Contract


WGA members have voted overwhelmingly to ratify their new film and TV contract, voting 4,068 to 87 (98% to 2%) to approve the deal.

Guild leaders say that gains in the new pact are valued at more than $200 million over three years, including a 46% increase in residuals from high-budget streaming shows, additional funding for the guild’s pension plan and parental leave. Read the guild’s summary of the dea below.

The new pact, whose terms are retroactive to May 2, was unanimously endorsed by both the WGA West Board and the WGA East Council.

“This year we faced a unique situation in negotiations because of COVID-19, but despite the challenges posed by the pandemic we achieved gains in a deal that will serve writers’ interests for the next three years,” WGA West President David A. Goodman and WGA East president Beau Willimon said in a joint statement. “We could not have achieved that without a determined negotiating committee led by co-chairs Michele Mulroney, Shawn Ryan, and Betsy Thomas, committed member volunteers, and our professional WGA staff. We thank all writers who contributed to the process and participated in the ratification vote.”

The ratification vote concludes the three-year cycle of guild contract negotiations with management’s Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. DGA members ratified their new contract on April 3, and SAG-AFTRA members ratified theirs on July 22.

The industry hasn’t been hit by a strike in more than a dozen years, when the WGA struck for 100 days in 2007-08. A strike this time around was all but precluded because of the existing work stoppage caused by the coronavirus shutdown. After the agreement was reached in the early morning hours of July 1, the WGA’s negotiating committee noted that “although the ongoing global pandemic and economic uncertainty limited our ability to exercise real collective power to achieve many other important and necessary contract goals, we remain committed to pursuing those goals in future negotiations.”

The new contract contains many of the terms sought by the WGA, but also includes a rollback in residuals from the long-floundering syndication market, which WGA leaders said had been baked into the deal by the AMPTP’s pattern bargaining with the DGA and SAG-AFTRA, noting that they had to “fight off significant writer-centric rollbacks” during the negotiations that “would have been very damaging.”

Here’s the guild’s summary of the deal

The following is a summary of the negotiated amendments to be included in the 2020 MBA. It is a simplified version of the longer Memorandum of Agreement, which contains the full text of the new provisions. The language of the Memorandum of Agreement will prevail in the event of any inconsistency. Unless amended in the 2020 negotiations, the provisions of the 2017 MBA remain unchanged.

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% 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:
      • 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)
      • 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.

Additional Arbitrators:
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.

Administrative Changes

    • 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.

Note: The above summary is for informational purposes only. It does not contain binding contractual language, nor does it mention every modification.

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2020/07/wga-members-overwhelmingly-ratify-new-film-tv-contract-1202997410/