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Directors Guild of America Members Ratify New Contract

WGA, SAG-AFTRA have not yet set talks

Members of the Directors Guild of America have ratified a new three-year master contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — setting the stage for the next round of talks with Hollywood writers and performers.

“With this vote, the DGA membership has decisively demonstrated its support for the new contract,” said Paris Barclay. “This negotiation was about laying the groundwork to protect our future in a meaningful way, and the result is a strong and forward-looking agreement with substantial gains for our members. I am very proud of what our Negotiations Committee and the professional staff of the DGA have accomplished.”

The DGA did not disclose the vote, other than saying it was an “overwhelming” margin — a typical description of the voting at the DGA, which has largely been free of dissent among members for many years.

The AMPTP issued a brief statement: “We are pleased that the DGA membership has ratified the new contracts. These new agreements will contribute to the stability of the industry by ensuring that feature film and television production – and the jobs dependent on it – can continue without interruption.”

Gains include an annual 3% wage increase; increased residuals bases; significant improvements in basic cable; the establishment, for the first time, of minimum terms and conditions for high-budget new media made for subscription video on demand such as Netflix and establishment of a formal diversity program at every major TV studio.

The new contract’s goes into effect July 1.

The DGA’s national board vote unanimously approved the deal on Nov. 23, a day after DGA negotiators reached a tentative deal with AMPTP.

The calls 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.

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 month 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.

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