Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The New Contract -- Kudos and Salutations

I've been negotiating local contracts a long time and it's always stressful. You take a look at the studios' "wish list" of give-backs that they want and think "holy sh*t." You hold meetings with members on prospective proposals that the Guild wants, work on strategy and ideas in executive board meetings, and gather your negotiating committee together. And finally, the day the negotiations start, you drive to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Ventura Boulevard, gird your loins and plunge in. But truth to tell, of all the local negotiations in which I've been involved, this one was the most productive, the least rancorous, and -- what's the word? -- smoothest in the Animation Guild's recent history. We dropped a couple of our proposals, modified some others, and persuaded the studios' that some of the items they had placed on the table were a) non-starters and b) non-productive. And at 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon, we had ourselves a deal. During the wrap-up, we thanked the producers for their responsiveness to issues, in particular the problem of free-lance animation writers not getting enough assignments to maintain health benefits. Kevin pointed out some sobering stats: While the number of 839's reported pension and health/welfare hours increased by almost a million hours between 2002 and 2005, the number active members who qualified for health coverage fell from 78% to 66%. So obviously something was out of whack. We think that the new deal will go a long ways to rectifying problems, Kudos go to Earl Kress, TAG's vice-president, for pushing these issues through the last three contracts and being instrumental in improvements for animation writers. Kudos also to Matt Loeb, Mike Miller and Steve Aredas from the IA for bringing extra energy and purpose into the negotiating room. (Matt in particular was terrific in nailing down details and steering the negotiations to a quick, satisfactory conclusion.) President Kevin Koch was forceful in sidebar, and particularly good at rebutting misinformation put forward by some of the studios. I contributed in my usual way. (Sarcasm, anyone?) But enough with the back-patting. In a few weeks TAG members will be getting a detailed breakdown of the entire package, along with ballots and return envelopes. The negotiating committee has unanimously recommended a "Yes" vote on the deal, but it will be up to TAG members to decide.


Sue Bielenberg said...

Congrats on another successful contract negotiation. It is really interesting to read about the process from an insider.

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