Members of the Directors Guild of America have approved a three-year successor deal to the DGA master contract covering feature film and primetime television.
The DGA made the announcement Friday, saying its members had backed the agreement by an “overwhelming” margin. The new deal goes into effect on July 1 and will run through June 30, 2023.
The agreement came a month after its negotiators reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The DGA national board announced on March 7 that it had approved the deal unanimously and revealed that the agreement includes a significant increase in residuals for high-budget streaming content, pension, wages and TV creative rights. That triggered a ratification vote by the 18,000-plus members of the guild.
DGA president Thomas Schlamme said in a statement, “I am proud to report that our membership overwhelmingly voted to ratify the new contract. In a time of enormous uncertainty as we’re all feeling the weight of this current pandemic, it is at least reassuring for our members to know that when the industry resumes production, a strong new agreement awaits them.”
“The agreement contains important gains in key areas, including dramatic improvements in SVOD residuals and coverage; a significant increase in funding for our Pension Plan to secure our retirement promises now and into the future; healthy wage increases; and significant wins in television creative rights. This was a complex negotiation, and our thanks go to our Negotiating Committee, led by Negotiations Co-Chairs Jon Avnet and Todd Holland, our National Executive Director Russell Hollander, and our excellent professional staff.”
The DGA said Friday that gains include: significant increases in residuals for members working on original SVOD series, and structural changes maximizing the number of SVOD productions subject to the terms of the new agreement; increases in employer contributions to the pension plan; annual wage increases (2.5% in the first year, 3% in the second and third); significant gains in television creative rights; and important commitments with respect to diversity and inclusion. The new agreement also includes advances for members working in non-dramatic programming, safety, as well as a number of other improvements.
The ratification of the DGA deal comes with expirations looming for the master contracts for the Writers Guild of America on May 1 and SAG-AFTRA on June 30. Variety reported this week that the WGA and the AMPTP have made little progress towards starting contract negotiations with both sides far apart on setting up a framework for the talks.
The AMPTP is widely expected to offer the WGA and SAG-AFTRA improvements that are similar to those in the DGA deal as has been the practice in previous rounds of negotiations with the Hollywood creative guilds. The WGA leaders told their members last month that they had withdrawn a proposal that would have required studios to refuse to do business with agencies that had not signed on to the WGA’s requirement that agencies agree to limits on packaging fees and affiliate production.
The coronavirus has upended the business climate for contract talks for the WGA as well as SAG-AFTRA and many industry insiders believe the WGA will not be able to call for a strike amid the widespread shutdown of production and economic uncertainty ahead.
The WGA continues to evaluate options for conducting contract talks with Hollywood’s major studios that were to have started March 23 until coronavirus prevention measures made it untenable to hold face-to-face bargaining sessions. Those options include a proposal to extend the expiration of the current master contract by a full year to May 1, 2021 — including the gains achieved in the new Directors Guild of America master contract, which will go into effect on July 1.
Informed sources said the AMPTP had been proposing a two-month extension of the expiration out of concerns that a year-long extension would allow the WGA to mobilize for a strike authorization vote. Leaders of the WGA told its members on March 24 that they could be forced to extend the current contract beyond its current May 1 expiration due to the coronavirus pandemic and that they would not seek a strike authorization from members prior to May 1.