June 30, 2015 9:48 PM
2014 WGA MBA Ratification Company Logo

Statement from Negotiating Committee Co-Chairs

Billy Ray and Chip Johannessen

 

We are pleased to recommend ratification of the 2014 Minimum Basic Agreement now before you.  We make this recommendation on behalf of the entire joint WGAW-WGAE negotiating committee, which on April 2 voted unanimously in favor of ratification.

 

These negotiations produced real gains for writers. A detailed summary of the tentative agreement follows.  These are the highlights:

  • Increased Minimums:  We were able to “break the 2s” in our negotiation of minimum increases.  Most minimums will increase by 2.5%-3%/-3% over the three years of the contract.
  • Outsized Increase for Basic Cable Writers:  We were able to take a step toward parity for basic cable writers by negotiating “outsized” increases of 5%-5%-5% for most high budget one-hour basic cable series.  We got this increase while fighting off a pernicious rollback in this area.  The Companies attempted to tie the increase to a raise in the budget breaks for basic cable shows—a trade that would have significantly limited the number of basic cable shows that are covered by MBA minimums.  In the end, the Guild settled for a slightly smaller increase than the Companies initially offered, but the budget breaks remained unchanged.
  • Increase in Pension Contribution Rate:  The contribution rate to the Pension Plan will increase by .5% (to 8.5%), effective immediately.  Although our Pension Plan has weathered the economic crisis in good shape, this additional contribution will help ensure its long term solvency.
  • Minimums for Original High Budget Projects Made for Subscriber Video On Demand (SVOD):   For the first time, the MBA will include minimums and other MBA protections for high budget original projects made for SVOD platforms such as Netflix and Amazon.  The terms are equivalent to either prime time or basic cable minimums, depending on length, budget, and the number of subscribers of the SVOD service, and include protections for separated rights.  In a very real sense, this provision is the fulfillment of the promise of the 2007-08 strike, when WGA members walked picket lines to stake their claim to this new work jurisdiction.
  • Streaming New Media Residuals:  Since 2008, writers have received residuals for the streaming of programs on ad-supported platforms.  The new agreement makes three important improvements in that residuals provision.  First, it shortens the “initial streaming window” during which no residual is paid, in most cases from 17 days (24 for new shows) to seven days.  Second, it increases the fixed residual payable for each 26-week period in the first year following the streaming window from the current 3.5% of applicable minimum to 4% in the first contract year, 4.5% in the second contract year and 5% in the third contract year.  Third, it clarifies that the streaming residual includes consumer viewing through video-on-demand services provided by many cable companies.
  • Script Publication Fee:  Credited writers on features receive a script publication fee, which had been frozen at $5,000 since 2001.  The new agreement doubles that payment to $10,000.
  • Options and Exclusivity:  Effective January 1, 2015, the MBA will place two important limits on the provisions a Company may negotiate in the personal services agreement of an episodic television writer who earns less than $200,000 per contract year: (1) the agreement may not require that the writer be exclusive to the Company except during periods when the writer is being paid for his or her writing services; and (2) the Company may not hold a writer for more than 90 days under a negotiated option agreement without paying a holding fee of at least 1/3 of the MBA minimum for the writer’s services.  If the Company chooses not to pay the holding fee, the Company must allow the writer to accept an offer of other series employment, or if the series has been renewed, it may exercise the option and put the writer back to work.  On January 1, 2016 the threshold will increase by 5% to $210,000 per season.

The Guild was able to achieve these gains without agreeing to the rollbacks, totaling $60 million over the life of the contract, that the AMPTP placed on the table at the outset of negotiations. We successfully resisted those rollbacks, which were wholly unwarranted in a time of unprecedented prosperity for the Companies. This does not, of course, mean that the deal contains no compromises.  We agreed to a cap on pension and health contributions payable on TV pilots.  We also agreed to a lower residual rate, based on a percentage of revenue, for certain older television series licensed to basic cable or to “secondary” digital channels.  

 

While we are rightfully proud of this deal, there are areas of unfinished business that remain to be addressed in future negotiations.  We have made a step toward parity for basic cable writers, but it is only a partial step:  writers on half-hour series are excluded from the outsized increase, and even with the increase the one-hour rates still lag behind broadcast minimums.  And while the residual for streaming video will go up during the term of the contract, the increase does not reflect the explosive revenue increases the Companies have seen from this market.  Throughout the next three years, we will be in touch with all of you in order to set our future bargaining priorities.

 

We wish to thank our talented professional staff led by WGAW Executive Director and chief negotiator David Young. This agreement could not have been reached without their tireless efforts on behalf of all writers.  We are lucky to have them.

 

Negotiating Committee Members

 

Billy Ray (Co-Chair)

Chip Johannessen (Co-Chair)

John Aboud

John August

Alfredo Barrios, Jr.

John F. Bowman

Adam Brooks

Marjorie David

Ian Deitchman

Jonathan Fernandez

Terry George

David S. Goyer

Susannah Grant

Erich Hoeber

Damon Lindelof

Jenny Lumet

Jason Ross

Shawn Ryan

Bill Scheft

Robin Schiff

Stephen Schiff

Micah Wright

Nicole Yorkin

 

This ballot must be cast no later than 9:00 p.m. PDT/12:00 a.m. EDT on TUESDAY, APRIL 29, 2014.

 

Your Username is your Last Name and your Password is your Guild member ID number.

 

PLEASE NOTE:

 

WGA West members will use their (8) eight digit member ID number.

Please do not use dashes when entering your member ID number.

 

WGA East members will use their (5) five digit member ID number.

 


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