WGA Leadership to Vote on New Contract in Bi-Coastal Videoconference, May 8

News   WGA Leadership to Vote on New Contract in Bi-Coastal Videoconference, May 8 The leadership of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) will meet May 8 at 6 PM EST to determine whether or not the new WGA contract with producers will be sent to the Guild’s membership for ratification.

The leadership of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) will meet May 8 at 6 PM EST to determine whether or not the new WGA contract with producers will be sent to the Guild’s membership for ratification.

The executive structure of the Guild comprises the board of directors on the west coast and the executive council on the east coast The two groups will be linked by a videoconference.

According to a WGA statement, “The purpose of the meeting is to receive and vote upon the contract recommendation of the guilds' negotiating committee, and to refer that recommendation to the 11,000 members of the guilds for a ratification vote.”

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As reported, the Writers Guild of America has forged a deal with film and television producers. The new WGA contract is a three-year pact effective through May 1, 2004. The contract includes increases in the minimums paid to writers of 3.5 percent annually, with three percent annual increases of the network primetime minimums. There is also a 20 percent increase in “daytime serial writer breakdown minimums,” which is effective retroactively, from May 2, 2001, plus “3.5 percent increases in each of the second and third years of the contract.”

Foreign residuals have been uncapped, according to the WGA. The new contract retains “current tiers to 35 percent of minimum, plus 1.2 percent [of the] distributor’s foreign gross,” effective May 2, 2001.

On the controversial and coveted possessory credit issue, the WGA says it held extensive talks with CEO’s and other executives from the studios and major networks. In an attempt to reach a fair settlement on the issue and in deference to the Directors Guild (and its existing contracts), both sides in the WGA negotiations agreed to “commit to enter into talks on an ‘industry wide’ basis, no later that Oct. 1, 2001.”

Absent a definitive resolution, the WGA has otherwise defined the serious nature of the issue and elevated (and legitimatized) the controversial “credit” debate to an “industry wide” level. Among the specifics to be discussed are “film by” and other “possessive credits” in film and long form television and the “created by” credit and the “developed by” credit in episodic television.

The Guild cited the proliferation of “unwarranted credit” in feature film and television programs, both long form and episodic. In particular, the WGA singled out producer credits and the process by which “executives, producers and directors are accorded writing credit.”

On another issue, the Fox Network will be treated as a full network for all purposes effective May 2, 2003. This will include the payment of residuals at 100 percent of full minimum for all re-reruns on Fox in prime time. The Fox changes will be implemented incrementally. Effective immediately, 80 percent of the WGA’s contract minimum will be paid writers for re-runs. One year from now, the rate increases to 90 percent and, by 2003, Fox will be a full network for all purposes.

WGA gains in Internet include provisions for “made for” [Internet work], for which the company and writer may “enter into a side letter that allows for pension and health contributions on writing services for the Internet.” On the distributed re-use of such works, the writer will be paid 1.2 percent of the distributor’s gross for pay-per-view use via the Internet.

—By Murdoch McBride