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WGA/IATSE Reach Animation Writers Deal

The Writers Guild of America West reached an agreement with IATSE Local 839 Animation Guild requiring producers to tell animation writers whether a prospective job falls under the WGA agreement or the producers contract.

some animation writers found out too late that they were working on a Local 839 show they had assumed was covered by WGA terms and lost their position to negotiate for higher wages and health care benefits before taking the job.

WGA West announced the agreement in its Member News newsletter, saying the deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers was finalized June 22, and then discussed the matter in the Hollywood trades.

"This notice will give the writer the opportunity to take the job with full knowledge of the terms of the deal, try to negotiate above minimum terms (for example, WGA residuals and pension and health contributions if the show is IA) or choose not to take the job," according to the July newsletter.

On shows covered by the Animation Guild's contract, that union would retain jurisdiction but a writer would have the right to negotiate an over scale deal to meet WGA's requirements and arrange for health care contributions to the WGA fund.

"The company may negotiate using WGA rates as the basis of the deal or may stick to the original offer," according to the WGA. "Either way, the writer can then make an informed decision about the job."

The Guild will help writers understand the new provisions through its organizing department.

Disagreement between the two entities erupted last September when the guild criticized DreamWorks for attempting to sign the writers of "Father of the Pride" to a less favorable IATSE contract. DreamWorks responded by insisting it was simply honoring its IATSE pact, which expires in 2006. IATSE protested what it called illegal poaching of its contract by the WGA and warned it would file federal unfair labor practice charges. They settled the dispute, with the WGA gaining jurisdiction while IATSE collected initiation fees.

The WGA contends that every network that has aired a primetime animated show has done so under the guild's minimum basic agreement. This includes THE SIMPSONS, FAMILY GUY, GOD, THE DEVIL AND BOB, BABY BLUES, THE PJS, MISSION HILL, FUTURAMA, KING OF THE HILL, THE OBLONGS, DILBERT, GAME OVER and SAMMY. The WGA has not gained jurisdiction over much of feature animation writing and daytime TV shows.

Currently, the WGA's animation caucus has about 600 members.

The agreement was reached even though the WGA and AMPTP have suspended negotiations on a new contract because of differences over such issues as DVD residuals and health care contributions. Writers continue to work under the old agreement, which expired May 2.