WGA pact unites East, West

West votes 73% in favor; East, 96%

The eight-month-old peace agreement between the Writers Guild of America West and WGA East has been formally ratified, with the two unions settling their bitter battle over money and jurisdiction.

Nearly 73% of WGA West members who cast ballots approved the constitutional amendments, while 96% of WGA East members backed the measures. A total of 1,709 ballots were cast by 13% of eligible members — 4,000 in the WGA East and 9,000 in the WGA West.

In a joint announcement Wednesday, presidents Chris Albers and Patric Verrone trumpeted the results as an endorsement of the policies they’ve pursued since their respective elections last fall. The duo announced in October that they had resolved the long-running dispute.

Key points of the amendments provide for expedited arbitration on disagreements; for negotiating committees to comprise members proportionally from those eligible to vote; sharing all information on credits, waiver requests, residuals, contracts, grievances and arbitrations that jointly affect both unions; and for jurisdiction to be divided by the Mississippi River. The East will cover the U.K., Ireland and Canada east of Manitoba, and the West will cover the rest of the world.

Both leaders had promised during their campaigns to seek a way to end the fight, which had escalated last spring with the eastern branch suing the WGA West for refusing to engage in mediation, triggering a countersuit by WGAW to force arbitration. Albers and Verrone have promised that the WGA will present a united front at contract negotiations over the film-TV agreement, which expires in October 2007.

“Now that these amendments have passed, the two Writers Guilds can focus on our many shared goals instead of a few conflicts that divided us for far too long,” Albers said. “This renewed partnership has been delivering positive results for months, and it’s already clear that we’re stronger when we work together.”

“The passing of these amendments sends a message from all our members that they urge us to resolve our collective issues and focus on the future,” Verrone added.

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