WGA East Reaches Deals with Two Reality Production Companies

The agreements with Lion Television and Optomen Productions include health benefits and compensation minimums.

The Writers Guild of America, East is 2 for 4 in its campaign to organize reality TV, an area that has proved difficult for either branch of the Writers Guild to unionize. The deals, with Lion Television and Optomen Productions, are the first with non-fiction TV production companies to offer writer-producers company-paid health benefits, paid time off and compensation minimums, the guild said Wednesday.

Negotiations with Atlas Media continue, while ITV Studios continues refuse to recognize NLRB-sanctioned election, according to the union. ITV has appealed the election results to the National Labor Relations Board.

“We are very pleased to have reached agreement with Lion and Optomen,” said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson. “This is a part of the television industry that has historically been non-union, and these agreements demonstrate that people who join with the WGAE get, not just a community of creative professionals, but tangible improvements in their working conditions.”

The Hollywood Reporter is in the process of contacting the companies for statements, and will update this story with any comments received.

The deals come more than a year after the start of the organizing campaign, dubbed Non-Fiction Writers and Producers United.

Under the terms of the agreements, 90 percent of the health premiums will be paid by the employer. In addition to that benefit, and paid time off and compensation minimums, labor disagreements will be subject to grievance and arbitration – typical provisions in collective bargaining agreements that serve as a backstop to the substantive portions of the deal.

Pension and health have emerged over the last several years as issues for represented employees as well. In their most recent studio contracts, SAG, AFTRA, the DGA and WGA achieved larger than usual increases in employer P&H contributions. The issue is expected be on the table as well in the SAG-AFTRA commercials negotiations this Spring.

Lion TV produces or has produced shows such as “Cash Cab” for Discovery Network, “Megadrive” for MTV, and “History Detectives” and “America Revealed” for PBS. According to a guild statement at the time workers at Lion voted to unionize – six months ago – the Lion bargaining unit would include almost 100 people employed as writers, producers, associate producers and researchers.

Optomen, a division of a UK company, has produced such U.S. programs as “Hell's Kitchen” for Fox and produces “Worst Cooks in America” for the Food Network.

The contracts are effective immediately and last for three years.

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Email: jhandel@att.net

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