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Writers Guild Members Approve Issues for Contract Negotiations

14 Jan, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

Members of the Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw) and the Writers Guild of America, east (WGAe) have approved a list of issues to be addressed in the 2004 negotiations for new contracts with the major studios and the networks.

“Writers have approved our pattern of demands by a resounding 96 percent majority vote of support,” said Charles Holland, president of the WGAw. “The Pattern of Demands is comprehensive, presenting issues that are not new but are fundamental to artists who provide content to the studios and networks. The DVD/videocassette formula has not been changed in decades, though DVD profit margins have dramatically increased in the past two years. Writers and every other artist in our industry took painful cuts in their health plans in 2003 because these were the fiscally responsible steps to take. It is now time for companies to contribute their fair share. Also, too many writers are working without the protections of the guilds’ contract in areas such as animation and reality."

In a demand letter outlining the issues for the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) under which writers work, former WGAw president Victoria Riskin and WGAe president Herb Sargent laid out plans to gain more for writers working in “an extremely prosperous new atmosphere” resulting from DVD, higher box office takes and original programming on basic cable networks like Fox’s FX and Bravo.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiates on behalf of the studios and networks, was less than enthusiastic about the list.

“It looks like a disaster waiting to happen,” said AMPTP president J. Nicholas Counter. “We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best.”

The writers’ existing contract expires May 2. A date for negotiations to start has not been set.

“This is a time of great opportunity. The business is healthy with rising revenues in TV and exploding revenues in motion pictures. The negotiating committee formed by the board and council of WGAw and WGAe comprises knowledgeable, professional writers. The studios and networks have seasoned professionals. Together, we can put the industry right and create lasting labor peace.”

A total of 2,410 ballots were cast in Los Angeles and New York; 2,331 writers, or 96.7 percent, approved the pattern; 89 writers voted against the pattern. There are 10,300 voting members in the WGAw and WGAe.

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