DGA leaders told their members tonight that DGA will not be the first guild at the bargaining table with AMPTP this year because “the studios are not yet ready to address our core issues.” It’s a break from recent tradition: The DGA has gone ahead of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA in each of the past three bargaining negotiations. The last time DGA didn’t go first was in 2010, when pre-merger SAG and AFTRA came to the bargaining table first. The last time the WGA went first, in 2007, there was a 100-day writers’ strike.
The DGA’s current film and TV contract expires June 30 — the same day as SAG-AFTRA’s and two months after the WGA’s contract expires May 1.
In a message to their members, guild leaders said that “after careful consideration,” the guild’s 80-person negotiating committee “unanimously decided today that it is not in our best interest to begin negotiations before the expiration of our contract. We plan to set a bargaining date for later this spring. Will work with studios.”
Which guild goes first is important because whoever it is tends to set the pattern of bargaining for others to follow, although each guild has its own unique needs that pattern bargaining cannot solve. But issues like annual salary increases and residual rates are set by the first at the bargaining table and usually passed to the next two guilds when it’s their turn.
DGA leaders, however, insisted tonight that “the date we start bargaining is far from the most important thing. The more important issue at stake is whether the studios will decide to properly address our members’ concerns. These concerns include wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights and diversity. If the studios don’t address these issues, they know we’re ready to fight.”
Here is DGA’s communication to its members, signed by John Avnet (Negotiations Chair), Karen Gaviola (Negotiations Co-Chair), Todd Holland (Negotiations Co-Chair) and Russ Hollander (National Executive Director):
“After careful consideration, our 80-person BA/FLTTA Negotiating Committee today unanimously determined that it is not in our best interest to begin negotiations before the expiration of our contract. We will work with the studios to set a deal date later this spring As you know, our main contract expires on June 30.
“Our approach to negotiations is, and always has been, guided by one simple principle: We will negotiate only when we believe we will win the best deal possible. Sometimes this means negotiating a few months before our contract expires, if we feel the studios can bring everyone to an early discussion prepared to satisfactorily address our concerns in exchange for stability.
“In other negotiation cycles, we have made strong gains by waiting for negotiations in the next process. We won some important gains, including the establishment of our groundbreaking Pay TV Residual Formula, as we negotiated near the end of our contract. Regardless of when we negotiate, our history, including recent negotiation cycles, is that we have achieved industry-leading agreements that have protected our members and businesses.
“Over the past eighteen months, we have been following our normal, thorough process to prepare for successful negotiations. That preparation includes rigorous research, strategy development, consulting with leading industry experts, creating a discussion committee that represents our diverse membership, surveying and speaking with members to develop our priorities, and more. The process also includes initial conversations with the studio to determine if they are ready to address the issues our members care about most. At this point, the studios are still not ready to solve our core problems.
“The date we start bargaining is far from the most important thing. The more important issue is whether the studios will decide to adequately address our members’ concerns. These concerns include wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights and diversity. If the studios don’t address these issues, they know we’re ready to fight.
“It comes down to this: We are partners in this business. This means negotiating a new contract that treats our members fairly and with respect, that recognizes and rewards our important contributions to the industry, our part in building a healthy, vibrant, stable business, however it evolves. Doing so strengthens interests that will entertain and inspire audiences around the world.
“Our process and preparation will continue – expect to hear more from us in the coming weeks and months – until we win a great contract. This cycle of negotiations is more than just negotiating a strong contract for the next three years – they’re about the future of our industry. It’s about setting the path for and that’s what we’re going to achieve.”