Directors Guild of America Sets Contract Negotiations With Companies

Image courtesy of the Directors Guild of America

Nov. 4 will be start date

Following its typical pattern of going long before contract expiration, the Directors Guild of America has set Nov. 4 for contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers.

The DGA, which named Michael Apted and Thomas Schlamme as its negotiating committee co-chairs in February, has usually gone first in recent negotiation cycles between the AMPTP and the guilds.

The DGA’s current master contract expires June 30. Negotiations will be held at the AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks.

In a joint announcement Wednesday, the guild and the AMPTP — which serves as the negotiating arm for the companies — said they have already instituted a news blackout: “The DGA and the AMPTP have also agreed that neither organization will comment to the press regarding negotiations until negotiations have concluded.”

Hollywood’s other two major unions — SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America — have not yet locked in a start date for negotiations for their successor deals to master contracts covering features and primetime TV. The WGA deal expires May 1 and the SAG-AFTRA deal runs out June 30.

The DGA’s current three-year successor pact — negotiated at the end of 2010 –contains a 2% annual wage hike and a boost to 15.5% from 14% in pension and health contributions.

The DGA has tended to be the first of the major Hollywood unions to reach a deal on its master contract with the congloms during each negotiating cycle, though SAG went first during the 2010 cycle as part of its previous pact with the AMPTP. Both SAG and the DGA reached a deal before the end of 2011 — more than six months before the master contracts expired.

DGA leaders have long espoused the notion that negotiating well before expiration is the best strategy for extracting the best terms from the AMPTP with a “premium” in exchange for the guarantee of labor peace.

The WGA West’s leaders told members earlier this year that they did not expect negotiations to start until next year — which is line with the writers strategy of negotiating closer to expiration in hopes that the looming threat of a work stoppage may encourage companies to make the best deal possible.

As for SAG-AFTRA, the performers union has already announced that it will hold its “wages and working conditions” process beween Jan. 27 and March 14. That process is mandated constitutionally for the union to formulate its contract proposal.

The DGA came into the spotlight in early 2008 during the latter stages of the bitter WGA strike, closing an agreement spelling out specifics of jurisdiction over new media productions and reuse, and guaranteed access to the new-media deals and data. The new-media provisions in the DGA pact subsequently became the template for the WGA, SAG and AFTRA deals.

The DGA has continued to spend funds on consultants and its own research department to generate data and projections for the negotations. Its leaders tout that data as being more accurate than what’s generated by the individual companies because of the broader scope of the guild’s sources.

Apted served as DGA president for three terms from 2003-2009 and oversaw the negotiations in 2004 and 2008. He was first elected to the DGA national board in 2001 and joined the DGA in 1978. He’s also had an extensive career in film with “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The World Is Not Enough,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Trader” and the “7Up” documentary series.

Apted was re-elected secretary-treasurer of the DGA in June when Paris Barclay was named president, succeeding Taylor Hackford.

Schlamme is best known for collaborating with Aaron Sorkin on “The West Wing,” for which he won three Emmys. He was elected Third VP of the DGA in June.

National exec director Jay D. Roth will continue to serve as the DGA’s chief professional negotiator.

In recent years the unions have remained on relatively good terms with employers — so much so that the last round of negotiations in 2010-11 with the AMPTP was completed largely under the radar and without controversy. In all three successor contracts, the key gains were a 2% hike in minimums and a 1.5% increase in employer contributions to the pension and health plans.

SEE ALSO: SAG-AFTRA Targets Spring for AMPTP Contract Talks

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