Thursday, March 20, 2008

Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan and the WGA Strike

The MPIPHP has crunched numbers regarding what impact the recently ended Writers Guild strike had on the cash flow and overall numbers of the Industry Plan (which covers 120,000 participants).

The hit, as it turns out, wasn't as bad as it could have been ... but there was a hit.

According to Plan accountants, contributions declined sharply over the length of the strike.

In November 2007, after the strike had started but before television production shut down, Plan Contributions increased 12% over the same time frame in November 2006.

In December 2007, as television production gradually went dark, Plan contributions decreased 8.5% from the same period in December 2006.

In January 2008, when almost all t.v. production was down, Plan contributions decreased 20% from January 2007.

And in February 2008, Plan contributions decreased 25% from February 2007.

During the writers' action, one of the questions I got asked a lot was: "So what happens to our health coverage if this goes on for eight months to a year?"

And I said: "Nothing good, but we've got a cushion to carry us for awhile."

The size of that cushion dropped slightly December to December, but as of December 31, 2007, we were still in pretty good shape. We went from 15.7 months of reserves* for active participants at the end of 2006 to 14.7 months of reserves at the end of 2007.

Happily, the strike lasted only 3 months. That helped decrease long-term damage.

* A month of reserves means if NO money comes into the Health Plan for thirty days, then the Plan has enough money to keep paying benefits for thirty days (one month).


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this info. I personally may have had more understanding of the WGA's predicament if their issues were more directly related to health and pension issues, issues I think more hollywood union professionals are familiar with.

I do understand the concept that their fight is our fight, but their compensation structures and collective bargaining history are not easily translated into kitchen table concerns. It was enormously frustrating to sit on the sidelines and attempt to decipher the WGA's labor language, which resembles more of a contract dispute over copyright law rather than a dispute over day-to-day work-for-hire agreements.

Steve Hulett said...

You're welcome.

One of our purposes in creating this blog was to get more transparency and communication going within TAG. You don't know how the different moving parts work together, you can't make informed choices.

IATSE officials railed against the writers strike while it was happening. Some of their motivation was the damage it would do to the Pension and Health plans.

(I had some typos inside the block quote above; it should have been January 2008 and February 2008 -- I typed in 2007. This is the curse of rapid, late-night posting. But it's now been corrected.)

Anonymous said...

Steve, is it true there is a 2 million dollar lifetime cap on union member's health care?

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