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DGA, AMPTP Set to Open Contract Negotiations (Analysis)

Carol Lombardini - P 2013
AMPTP
AMPTP President Carol Lombardini

The talks will begin on Nov. 4, well in advance of contract expiration and prior to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA negotiations.

Contract negotiations between the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are set to officially begin on Nov. 4, the organizations said Wednesday. The discussions for a new three-year contract will be hosted at the AMPTP's Sherman Oaks headquarters and conducted under a press blackout.

The announcement means that the DGA will go first in this negotiating cycle, preceding the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. As a result, the DGA talks will set a pattern on issues of common interest, such as across-the-board wage increases; key modifications, if any, to the new media provisions of the guild agreements; and increases, if any, to employer pension and health contributions.

No law or rule requires the other guilds to accept the deal terms negotiated by the DGA and AMPTP, but in practice it has proved difficult or impossible for them to do so.

STORY: DGA, Networks Reach Tentative Agreement in News, Sports and Operations

In recent years the DGA has been able to conclude a deal within 2-3 weeks, suggesting that an agreement may be concluded before Thanksgiving. The period between that holiday and early January is usually dark because of various vacation schedules. (Hollywood labor negotiations involve dozens of people.)

The current DGA and SAG-AFTRA contracts expire June 30, while the WGA’s ends on May 1.

SAG-AFTRA previously announced that it will begin its wages and working conditions process in January, in which it holds meetings with members and assesses major issues. That typically six week process results in a recommended package of contract proposals, which are then voted on by the union’s board.

The length of that process and the WGA’s earlier expiration all but guarantee that the WGA negotiations will begin in January, February or March, and SAG-AFTRA’s in April or May.

Key issues to watch include:

* Wages. In the 2007-2008 negotiating cycle, the unions achieved 3.5 percent annual wage increases, but since then the norm has become 2 percent for above and below the line unions. The AMPTP will want to hold the line, according to a studio-side source, while the DGA will presumably argue that an improved economy and entertainment business climate justify a higher figure. It could come down to a struggle over 3 percent vs. 2 percent, with a possible compromise down the middle.

* Pension and health. It’s unclear whether the DGA will push for an increase in pension and health contributions by employers, since the improved economy has put the P&H funds on a better footing than they were in the wake of the Great Recession.

* New media. Some union officials and activists feel that the new media provisions of the guild agreements, achieved in 2008 by the DGA during the WGA strike need revision in light of changes since then, such as the growth of high-budget made for new media productions such as Netflix’s House of Cards and the increasing growth of new media replays at the expense of network reruns.

The DGA negotiating committee will be co-chaired by Michael Apted and Thomas Schlamme, the union announced in February.

In other negotiation news, the AMPTP announced last week that it has promoted Diane Mirowski to VP research and labor economics.

Mirowski has served as the organization’s director of labor economics since Sept. 2010, and is responsible for the collection and analysis of data and information necessary for the negotiation and administration of more than 80 industry-wide collective bargaining agreements. Her duties include researching trends in production and employment, analyzing proposals during negotiations and monitoring the funding status of industry pension and health plans. She serves on the boards of two Hollywood union pension and health plans.

“Diane plays a key leadership role in negotiations, enabling our member companies to evaluate the economic impact of various bargaining positions,” said AMPTP President Carol Lombardini. “Her insightful analyses of employment and business trends are also instrumental in helping to manage the industry-wide benefit plans and administer the agreements.”

Mirowski graduated from Cornell University in 2000 with a B.A. in Biological Sciences. She served as a contract and research analyst at AMPTP from July 2000 to August 2004 before leaving to obtain an MBA in Finance at the University of Colorado, Denver. Mirowski returned to the AMPTP in September 2010.

“I enjoy the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to the studios’ collective bargaining activities and look forward to studying how the evolving economics of our industry impact production under the labor agreements,” Mirowski said.

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