Guild pacts with reality shingles after year of talks

The Writers Guild of America East has reached three-year master contract agreements with Lion Television and Optomen Prods. after more than a year of negotiations with the reality TV companies.

The contracts are effective immediately and cover potentially hundreds of employees.

Deals are the culmination of a WGA East organizing drive dating back to 2010. That effort targeted shows produced in New York City, with a focus on the issues of scribes working unpaid overtime and without employer-provided health-care benefits.

The guild said the contracts provide for company-paid health benefits, with 90% of the premium paid by the employer; paid time off; grievance and arbitration provisions; and compensation minimums.

“We are very pleased to have reached agreement with Lion and Optomen,” said WGA East exec director Lowell Peterson in a statement Wednesday. “This is a part of the television industry that has historically been non-union, and these agreements demonstrate that people who join with the WGAE get not just a community of creative professionals but tangible improvements in their working conditions.”

Peterson told Variety that the contacts are the first contracts for any union for shows on Lion and Optomen, adding that the pacts are modeled on the guild’s agreement for lower-budget basic cable shows. He predicted that guild will be able to unionize other reality producers soon.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive responses among employees at other production companies in the reality sector, where employees traditionally get whatever they can negotiate,” he added.

Lion TV shows include “Cash Cab” for Discovery Network, “Megadrive” and “Money From Strangers” for MTV and “History Detectives” and “America Revealed” for PBS.

Optomen shows include “Scorned: Love Kills” for ID and “Mysteries at the Museum” for Travel Channel.

The WGA East has also won union elections at Atlas Media, where it remains in negotiations, and at ITV Studios. It said Wednesday that talks with ITV would begin once the National Labor Relations Board resolves a remaining appeal.

Atlas produces such shows as “Hotel Impossible” for Travel Channel.

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