WGA offers mixed reaction to new pact

Writers Guild of America members continued to offer mixed reactions Wednesday after the guild released the details of its new contract.

The WGAW’s board of directors voted in favor of the agreement 14 to 1. The contract will bring some fundamental gains to its members, including pension and health benefits to scribes who sell spec scripts, better pay TV residuals as well as stronger committees to address cable and foreign residuals.

The guild and the industry will also recommend to trustees to create a “boomer fund,” which will ensure the long-term viability of WGA’s health fund. Studios and networks will contribute 6.5% on every scribe’s sale to the fund.

“This fast-track early negotiation process has resulted in significant far-sighted gains for writers,” said WGAW prexy Brad Radnitz in a statement. “We have enhanced residuals on Fox and in pay TV and more, with no rollbacks.”

But many members have expressed concern over the process of the negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and the networks. Chiefly, in addition to what they say is a hurried process, some members believe without a traditional bargaining structure, members are forced into unnecessary concessions.

“The contract is a perpetuation of the Contract Adjustment Committee and I think the CAC is a failure,” Jerome Coopersmith, council member and former VP of WGA East told Daily Variety. “I think that we should go back to traditional bargaining.”

Following an industry-crippling, five-month strike in 1988, the guild has held speedier talks under the CAC format, which results in negotiations being held far ahead of contract expiration dates.

But Daniel Petrie Jr., WGAW veepee and candidate for the prexy in this September elections, believes the CAC process is in the best interests of guild members.

“We have gotten more out of the CAC without any rollbacks and without the disastrous strikes of the ’80s,” Petrie argued.

Dissident members also say the guild’s negotiating team was too soft on cable and foreign residuals.

“The global market is an increasing and eventually we will get our rightful share of that,” said Carl Gottlieb, chair of the guild’s negotiating committee and former WGAW veepee. “This negotiation did not seem the time to charge up that hill. Many people believe that could not have been gained (even) with a strike.”

The WGAE Council, which is equivalent to WGAW’s board of directors, narrowly voted in favor the contract by a vote of 10 to nine. The WGAW members will vote on Sept. 18 and WGAE members will cast ballots on Sept. 30 on the pact.

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