Three-year contract heading to membership for approval

The final chapter in a drama-free negotiations season is about to play out with a ratification vote on a new master contract during the next several weeks by the 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America.

The guild announced Friday that the WGA West board and the WGA East council had unanimously approved the three-year pact. It didn’t disclose the deadline for returning ballots or when it will hold member meetings to vote on the tentative deal, announced March 20 after two and half weeks of negotiations.

Members can include statements for and against ratification as part of the ballot. The WGA said Friday the vote will be conducted by mail and also at membership meetings in April, but gave no further details.

The latest development underlines the strategy by the current WGA leadership to move past the bitter 100-day strike that shook Hollywood to its core in 2007-08. WGA leaders never publicly raised the possibility of another strike in recent months, even as they were seeking approval of an aggressive pattern of demands from the members.

Key gains cited by the WGA’s negotiating committee in its March 20 message to members include a hike in pension contributions to 7.5% of total compensation, up from 6%; a 20% increase in pay TV residuals; and a 2% increase in minimums. The pension contribution can be increased in the second or third years through switching some or all of the increase in minimums.

Concessions included freezing the network primetime residual rates and elimination of the first-class travel provision when writers are required to fly to sets. The negotiating committee also spotlighted basic cable residual rates and jurisdiction related to motion-capture productions as issues in which it fell short during the bargaining.

Basic terms of the WGA deal follow the general pattern set in pacts ratified earlier this year by the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists and the Directors Guild of America.

DGA prexy Taylor Hackford issued a statement Friday on behalf of his guild, congratulating the writers guilds for “successfully concluding negotiations with the AMPTP and voting unanimously to send the tentative contract to the membership for ratification. We look forward to studying the details of this tentative contract closely.”

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