DGA members approve contract

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UPDATED 8:21 p.m. PT Feb. 20

DGA members overwhelmingly approved their new three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, officials said Wednesday.

In keeping with past policy, DGA officials refused to release vote figures, the percentage of ballots cast in favor of approving the pact or even the number of ballots cast. The vote was conducted by mail during the past month. The new pact takes effect July 1.

"It is my great pleasure to announce that the DGA membership has overwhelmingly voted to ratify the new collective-bargaining agreements," DGA president Michael Apted said. "The vote reflects the strong support and enthusiasm our members have for our new contract."

Apted lauded terms of the new pact, including such "important precedents" as first-ever jurisdiction over new-media content and expanded Internet residuals.

"We entered this round of bargaining steadfast in our belief, born of 70 years of negotiating experience, that what would make it possible for us to achieve our goals was our 18 months of research and preparation, our understanding of the issues our industry faces and our willingness to sit across the table and negotiate until a conclusion was reached," Apted said. "We also recognized that this was only the beginning of a series of difficult negotiations and that we are still years away from the time when new media will be our industry's dominant revenue source."

A similar ratification vote is under way at the WGA, whose members have until Monday to vote by mail. Alternately, WGA West and WGA East members also will be able to vote in person at respective membership meetings set for Monday on both coasts.

Over at SAG, officials are mulling when to begin their own film and TV contract talks with the AMPTP. SAG's current pact expires June 30, but unlike the DGA the actors don't have as established a tradition for early negotiations.

SAG is likely to follow the pattern of the DGA and the WGA in holding informal talks with one or more top execs from media companies before commencing formal negotiations. The DGA met in formal negotiations for only six days in January, following weeks of informal talks, and the WGA this month used a similar approach to break through a monthslong negotiating impasse.

SAG's informal talks will probably begin sometime in March. But formal negotiations still aren't expected until later in the spring despite recent pressure from some high-profile SAG members to launch early talks with the AMPTP.

The AMPTP issued a statement commending the DGA's membership vote -- and getting in one last dig at the WGA and its recently ended 100-day strike against studios and networks.

"The members of the (DGA) have ratified the sensible labor agreement we concluded," the studio group said. "Our negotiations with DGA proved beyond any doubt that when both parties are prepared to bargain seriously, groundbreaking new-media labor pacts can be reached without resorting to harmful and unnecessary strikes."

The WGA's ratification vote concludes with meetings set for 6 p.m. PST Monday at the WGA Theatre in Beverly Hills and 6 p.m. EST Monday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. WGAW and WGAE spokespersons said results of the voting likely won't be announced until Tuesday.
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