WGA pension fund on uptick

Investments gain back most of 2008 losses

The WGA pension plan has notified participants that its official status is “healthy” with its investments recovering much of their value after plunging 34% in 2008.

“While our pension plan suffered a significant setback in 2008, we were in a better position than many to weather this storm because we were well-funded when the economic crisis struck,” the plan said in the recent notice.

Fair market value of the plan’s assets rose 18% to $1.82 billion as of the end of last year from $1.54 billion at the end of 2008. Assets had been valued at $2.17 billion at the end of 2007, prior to the market meltdown.

Trustees noted that the rate of return last year totaled 21.9% and said its actuaries projected that the plan would be 95.5% funded as of the end of 2009. They also noted that the plan’s realized an average return of 8.3% annually over the last 20 years.

“However, we also should not minimize the dramatic nature of the declines encountered in 2008 or the risk of additional declines in the future,” the notice also said.

Trustees of the plan — a separate entity from the guild that’s jointly administered by reps of the WGA and the industry — began sending the notices to participants in recent days. The WGA plan has 13,007 participants.

The report was similar to the annual report issued recently by the Directors Guild of America’s pension plan, which also regained most of its value last year after seeing a 26% decline in 2008. The SAG and AFTRA plans saw similar declines in 2008.

The issue of funding the guild pension and health care plans will likely be a factor in the next round of contract negotiations this fall, with SAG and AFTRA launching their talks on Oct. 1 and the DGA set for mid-November. The WGA hasn’t set the start of its talks.

Employers pay 14% (8.5% to health, 5.5% to pension) for the DGA, 14.5% (8.5% health, 6% pension) for the WGA, 15% (9.25%, 5.75%) for SAG and 15% (9.75%, 5.25%) for AFTRA on top of every dollar of compensation into the pension and health plans.

The WGA’s master contract expires next May 1. The DGA, SAG and AFTRA master contracts all expire on June 30, 2011.

Trustees of SAG’s pension plan recently notified participants that funding for its pension plan is still “endangered,” though it has improved slightly over last year ( Daily Variety April 27).

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