Ballots due Jan. 7
The Directors Guild of America has sent its 15,000 members ratification ballots on a three-year successor deal to its master contract.
The new deal contains sweeter terms than the current three-year pact on wage minimums and pension contributions along with establishing minimums and residuals for made-for content for subscription video on demand (SVOD) such as Netflix.
The DGA’s national board vote unanimously approved the deal on Nov. 23, a day after DGA negotiators reached a tentative deal with AMPTP.
Ballots are due back by Jan. 7. If approved by members, the new deal will go into effect July 1.
“This is a strong and forward-looking agreement that protects our members’ futures for not just the next three years but for many years to come,” DGA president Paris Barclay said in the cover letter.
Key points of the deal call for wage increases of 2.5% the first year and 3% for the second and third years; a 0.5% increase in the pension plan with the DGA able to divert that increase to wages in the first year if it chooses; residuals will also increase 2.5% the first year and go up 3% in the second and third years except for network primetime, which will increase by 2% each year.
“We successfully achieved critical gains in a number of significant areas — the most important of which was to increase wages significantly for members by ‘breaking the 2s’ — the pattern set after the economic downturn of 2008 that affected labor negotiations throughout the industry and resulted in 2% annual wage increases at best,” Barclay said.
The tentative pact also includes — for the first time — specific wages, terms and conditions for “high-budget” original and derivative dramatic new media productions made for SVOD. Additionally, the free streaming window for TV programs has been reduced to seven days after the first seven episodes of a new series.
The DGA also achieved what it has called an “outsize” hike in director pay for one-hour basic cable series in the mid-budget tier ($2.5 million to $3.6 million) so that the rate will equal pay in programs of $3.6 million and above by the final year of the contract. Rates will rise from the current $26,607 to $32,951.
Leaders of the Writers Guild of America indicated last week that they are placing a premium on hiking compensation for cable shows, according to its “pattern of demands” letter for its upcoming negotiations with the AMPTP. The letter listed more than a dozen demands, highlighted by an “outsized” increase in basic cable compensation.
The DGA typically starts its negotiations long before contract expiration while the WGA has usually opted to start far closer to the end of its contract. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA have not yet locked in start dates for negotiations for their successor deals to master contracts covering features and primetime TV.
The WGA deal runs out May 1. The SAG-AFTRA deal expires June 30 and its wages and working conditions process runs between Jan. 27 and March 14 — a process mandated constitutionally for the union to formulate its contract proposal.
In recent years the unions have remained on relatively good terms with employers and 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. Concessions included a freeze on primetime residuals and the end of first-class air travel to sets.