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Friday, 04 April 2014 23:37

Writers Guild and AMPTP Agree To New Contract

Written by  Gordon Meyer
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With just under a month to go before their current contract expires, Writers Guild of America West President Christopher Keyser announced on April 1st that the guild had come to a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on a new contract pending ratification by both WGAw and WGA East members. The present contract is set to expire May 1st.

Negotiations began on February 3rd and ran until February 15th when the two sides recessed until March 4th. Talks resumed on March 31st, which quickly led to the pending deal.  

While terms have not yet been disclosed, industry observers anticipate that the deal is probably similar to the agreement the AMPTP recently reached with the Directors Guild.  The DGA’s new agreement includes an annual 3% wage increase; what is described as “significant improvements” in basic cable; and for the first time, minimum terms and conditions on original content produced for subscription video on demand services like Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus and Netflix. 

One of the issues that was important to Keyser and his negotiation committee co-chairs Billy Ray and Chip Johanessen was the issue of job security in the changing television market.  “For over 50 years, writing for television operated on a predictable schedule,” the trio said. “Staffs on dramatic prime-time shows worked for 10 months to produce 22 episodes, then went on unpaid hiatus for two months before returning for the following season. But with the advent of basic cable, pay TV and now Netflix-type Internet shows, that changed. Writers on short-order shows now find themselves working for half a year or less, then stuck on unpaid hiatus for open-ended periods while waiting to see if their show – and their contract – will be renewed.”

Next up, the new contract with SAG-AFTRA.  No negotiation dates have been announced yet. Even though SAG and AFTRA merged two years ago, their respective contracts with the AMPTP remain separate.  Stay tuned. 


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