Contract negotiations are always somewhat stressful, even ones that go smoothly. For the past month, we've been working on a new three-year deal with Nickelodeon Animation Studios, our third go-round with the Viacom 'toon factory.
Nick is an anomaly, because its three-year collective bargaining agreement begins and ends in October, while most other companies expire at the end of July ...
This afternoon TAG held a meeting of the crew at Nickelodeon's Burbank facility. We gathered in the basketball court (Yes, Virginia, the home of Sponge Bob Square Pants and Fairly Odd Parents has an on-site, indoor basketball court.) I answered questions about the new three-year deal:
Q: How does this new Nick M.O.A. differ from the previous contracts between Nickelodeon and The Animation Guild?
A: The Memorandum of Agreement for 2008-2011 is almost identical to the previous agreements:
1) It has the same simplified language regarding Technological change.
2) It has the same language about dismissal pay. (One week dismissal pay after six months; two weeks dismissal pay after one year. After ninety days, payable on request.)
3) It has the same language regarding sick days. ("Currently ten sick days.")
Q: What are the increases in minimum rates in the new agreement?
A: The rate increases are 3% in each year of the new agreement ...
Q: What are the increases (or changes) to the Pension Plan? The Health Plan?
A: The current pension and health package will continue until August of 2009, when new pension and health terms will begin. As of now, those new terms (2009-2012) have not yet been negotiated between the other studios and the I.A.T.S.E or The Animation Guild.
Nick and TAG have agreed, however, that the new NASI-TAG Collective Bargaining Agreement will incorporate whatever terms are negotiated for the 2009-2012 contracts.
Q: Why does the Nick-TAG agreement have different beginning and end dates dates than most of the other TAG agreements?
A: Because the original Nick agreement was negotiated and signed in the Fall of 2002 after a majority showing of interest for union representation was shown by Nickelodeon animation employees. The Fall dates have remained ever since.
After the meeting concluded, the employees voted on the contract by secret ballot. The new Nickelodeon deal was ratified 70-1, with one unmarked ballot.