Scribes vow to fight for 3-year deal

WGA won't follow SAG/AFTRA extension pact

A correction was made to this article on Apr. 19, 2004.

As contract talks between writers and studios move into their second week, the Writers Guild has doused widespread speculation that it’s seeking a one-year extension to its current deal.

“We are focused on a three-year deal,” WGA West assistant exec director Cheryl Rhoden said. “A one-year deal isn’t even being considered.”

Rumors about a one-year extension have been bobbing up ever since SAG and AFTRA announced in late February that they had agreed to a one-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. The new SAG/AFTRA contract, which covers the period between July 1 and June 30, 2005, included a 2.5% wage hike, a 0.5% increase in pension and health contributions and boosted freelance rates for UPN and WB shows shot on digital to those of the Big Four.

SAG and AFTRA also sought the one-year extension in order to give themselves more time to explore another possible merger of the two unions.

But SAG and AFTRA left residuals off the table during the negotiations, leaving it to the WGA to demand that studios boost the residual rates for the red-hot DVD market. Most importantly for the writers, the extension left them without leverage on two fronts — it eliminated the possibility of a two-pronged strike by actors and writers this summer.

Boosting DVD payouts remains a particularly daunting challenge for the WGA since studio execs contend that any increase in the formula to the writers will also have to be given to SAG, AFTRA, DGA, IATSE and the Basic Crafts in their next contracts. In other words, every additional dollar for WGA residuals in DVD will mean about 10 additional dollars for the other unions.

The WGA’s other key positions include boosting health and pension contributions and expanding Guild coverage into reality TV.

The writers’ current film-TV pact expires May 2; both sides have imposed a news blackout on the substance of negotiations. The talks entered their fifth day Monday at AMPTP headquarters in Encino and are expected to continue today at the same location, then shift to the WGA West HQ in Hollywood on Wednesday.

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