After less than three weeks of talks, the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood’s major studios have reached an agreement on a new three-year contract.
The tentative agreement includes a 20% increase in pay-TV residuals, a 2% increase in annual wage rates and an increase in employer pension contributions to 7.5% from 6%, according a letter the WGA sent to its 12,000 members Sunday night. Negotiations to replace the current contract, which expires May 1, began March 3.
The swift agreement was widely anticipated and stood in sharp contrast to the bitter standoff that occurred in late 2007, after negotiations with the studios broke down and writers staged a 100-day strike that shut down television production and roiled Hollywood.
Although the previous contract negotiations centered largely on how writers should be paid in new media, the most recent talks focused more on traditional bread-and-butter union issues, such as raising minimum-wage rates and strengthening the union’s pension plan, which was hard hit by investment losses stemming from the recession.
The agreement, reached Sunday afternoon, was modeled on similar contracts recently negotiated by the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Directors Guild of America.
The guild’s negotiating committee said it would meet Monday to vote on sending the pact to the WGA’s board of directors. The proposed contract must be ratified by the guild’s membership before it takes effect.
The guild did make some concessions, including agreeing to freeze the payment of network prime-time residuals at current rates and to restrictions on first-class travel. The union also acknowledged that it did not succeed in raising residual rates in basic cable, which had been a priority.
A spokesman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers declined to comment.