Health and pension benefits are key issues

The Directors Guild of America is heading into a second week of negotiations with the congloms on a new master contract — with no developments yet announced.

Negotiators began meeting Tuesday following the Nov. 11 announcement of a news blackout until the talks are concluded. Several sources have indicated that negotiators have set aside this week and next for bargaining.

Negotiations have been taking place at the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers in Sherman Oaks.

The current DGA contract expires June 30 and covers about 14,000 members. The key issues are expected to be improvement of the employer rates in pension and health plans, which have not increased since 2005. Employers contribute to the DGA plans an additional 14% of the total compensation paid to directors — 8.5% to health, 5.5% to pension.

That rate lags behind the Writers Guild of America rate of 14.5% (8.5% health, 6% pension), and the 15% of both the Screen Actors Guild (9.25% health, 5.75% pension) and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (9.75% health, 5.25% pension). SAG and AFTRA’s tentative deal, announced Nov. 7, boosts the employer contribution to 16.5%.

Air travel may also be an issue at the DGA talks. The SAG-AFTRA tentative deal, announced Nov. 7, includes a 2% wage hike and eliminates first-class air travel to sets — a perk that the AMPTP insisted had to be modified. The tentative pact will fly actors in business class for trips of more than 1,000 miles, and coach for shorter journeys.

The WGA, which shares about 1,000 members with the DGA, still hasn’t set negotiations with the AMPTP. The current WGA pact — negotiated at the end of a bitter 100-day strike in 2008 — expires May 1.

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