WGA Unveils Priorities for Upcoming Negotiations With AMPTP

No drama in incremental proposals sought by guild.

Signaling what may be a calm negotiating process for writers, the WGA has issued a description of priorities notable for the absence of dramatic wording or drastic changes.

The four-page "Contract 2011 Bulletin," sent to members Monday, details four deal points the writers say they will seek. New media is last on the list.

The first point is pension and health. The WGA's P&H plans, like those of other Hollywood entertainment unions, are under pressure from underperformance of pension investments and from reduced health plan contributions resulting from higher unemployment of its members.

Thus, the WGA says "it's time for the companies to increase (P&H) contribution rates," a point the DGA also has publicly made.

Second is scripted basic cable. Compensation in that arena is only 1/2 to 2/3 the amounts for broadcast TV, and residuals are much lower. The WGA, pointing to the success of such series as Mad Men and the growth in the number of such series, wants unspecified increases.

Next are workplace issues such as "a deteriorating pitching process."

The guild says it is preparing contract proposals in these areas.

Finally, in new media, the WGA lists four priorities: shortening the free initial streaming window, now at 17 or 24 days; increasing ad-supported streaming residuals; reviewing the rules for clips used in new media; and addressing limitations in coverage of programs made for new media.

The current contract expires May 1, and no dates have been set for bargaining sessions.

SAG and AFTRA are now bargaining with the AMPTP. That contract expires June 30, and negotiations are scheduled to continue for through mid-November under a media blackout. DGA negotiations begin Nov. 15 for a contract that also expires June 30.