Guild discloses details of contract pact
In a typically united front, the Directors Guild of America’s national board has unanimously endorsed the tentative three-year deal with the congloms, triggering a ratification vote by its 14,300 members.The DGA disclosed Thursday that the pact mirrors gains in the recent deal for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists — a 2% annual wage hike and a boost to 15.5% from 14% in pension and health contributions, along with the concession of elimination of the first-class travel requirement. But two days after the DGA concluded the deal, there’s still no word from the Writers Guild of America. Even though the WGA shares about 1,000 members with the DGA, it has neither congratulated the directors nor commented on whether it’s working on setting a date for negotiations. The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers had no comment Thursday on the prospect of WGA negotiations, 4 1/2 months prior to expiration of the writers deal. But the AMPTP will undoubtedly assert that the successor WGA deal will have to adhere to the same parameters as the DGA and SAG/AFTRA pacts. The specific gains in the DGA deal include a new, higher compensation tier for directors working on high-budget basic cable dramatic programming; a first-timecontribution to the health plan on vacation pay and “completion of assignment” pay; and an increase in the cap on health plan contributions for unit production managers on features from $250,000 to $350,000. In addition, associate directors on multicamera primetime dramatic series will receive a share of residuals for the first time. “I’m truly pleased with this new contract,” said Gil Cates, chair of the DGA’s negotiations committee. “We went in there knowing full well that increasing employer contributions to our health plan would be our top priority. By the time we finished, we not only achieved a significant increase in contributions on our regular compensation, we also achieved contributions on completion of assignment pay and vacation pay for the first time ever.” The DGA reached the deal Tuesday with the majors after three weeks of talks, 7 1/2 months prior to expiration of its current pact. As for the Writers Guild, its current pact, hammered out after a bruising 100-day strike that began in November 2007, expires on May 1. The guild has tapped John Bowman and Billy Ray as heads of the negotiating committee and issued a list of potential demands several months ago, including improving new-media language and improving pay, particularly for cable writers. Prior to the Nov. 16 launch of the DGA talks, DGA leaders singled out the need to boost employer contributions to the DGA pension and health plans while noting that the new-media residuals carved out in the last round of talks had yet to yield significant revenue for its members. There was no mention of changes to new-media terms in Thursday’s announcement. For the DGA, employers contribute to the guild plans an additional 14% of the total compensation paid to directors — 8.5% to health, 5.5% to pension. The new deal raises the health contribution to 10%. The WGA receives 14.5% (8.5% health, 6% pension), while SAG receives 15% (9.25% health, 5.75% pension) as does AFTRA (9.75% health, 5.25% pension). SAG and AFTRA’s tentative deal for features and primetime boosts the employer contribution to 16.5%. All the guild plans are operated separately from the unions and are overseen by a board comprised of reps from the studios and the unions. The revamp in the first-class travel provision — viewed as a top priority by the companies — specifies that business class will be provided on flights of more than 1,000 miles unless it’s not available, in which case actors and directors will fly first class. On flights of under 1,000 miles, they will fly the highest available coach class. A joint board of SAG and AFTRA reps voted Saturday to endorse the deal. That ratification vote’s expected to be completed in mid-January.