It’s contract renegotiation time!
Specifically, it’s that time when the Writers Guild of America sits down with the Association of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) and tries like hell to make our TV, film, and other electronic media writing lives happier, healthier, and more fulfilling.
In other words, we’re looking for ways to be more productive and creative and make more $$$.
This week we’ll be bringing you the full text of the latest missives from the Writers Guild of America negotiating committee on where we are on what probably are the three most important issues.
Here’s #two – Pension and health benefits
In 2017, after years of healthcare costs outpacing inflation, we needed more money for our health plan. At the time, our plan was projected to run a deficit of $70 million by 2019. We used our collective power, including taking a strike authorization vote, to secure an increase in the employer contribution rate from 9.5% to 11.5% over the life of the 2017 MBA. Today our health plan is on solid ground; we ran surpluses over the last three years, and increased the number of months our health plan has in reserve.
Now, we need to secure additional funding from our employers in order to put our pension plan on strong enough financial footing to weather this market downturn and preserve pension benefits for future retirees. Currently, our employers contribute 8.5% of our compensation to the plan, which totals almost $150 million annually. While our pension plan is designed to pay out benefits over many decades, federal legislation mandates a short-term focus on investment returns that can threaten our benefits. In 2006, Congress passed the Pension Protection Act (PPA), which added new requirements for pension plans like ours that could require us to make changes quickly in response to a short-term decline in investment returns. Due to this law, and lingering effects of the 2008 market crash, a severe enough market downturn could force us to make future benefit cuts.
An increase in the employer contribution rate is not enough. We need to substantially increase the caps on contributions for screenwriters and writers of long-form TV. Members of teams should get full contributions for their work as individuals, not on reduced amounts simply because they are employed as a team. We also need to increase the type of compensation and residuals subject to benefit contributions. Most TV residuals generate contributions to the pension plan and health funds, but it’s not the same for streaming residuals. As streaming reuse is replacing TV reruns, streaming residuals need to generate contributions to our benefit funds. We need to change that now before streaming residuals replace other residuals, ultimately putting additional financial pressure on both the pension and health funds.
Our pension plan is a critical source of long-term financial security for middle-class writers, and a benefit that writers who came before us fought hard to achieve. Even if you’re early in your career and not thinking about retirement, one day it will come, and we want to make certain your WGA pension will be there for you.
Please check out this explainer video to better understand how the pension plan works and why it’s essential to negotiate increased contributions to defend it.
MBA Negotiating Committee
Michele Mulroney, Co-Chair
Shawn Ryan, Co-Chair
Betsy Thomas, Co-Chair
Ashley Nicole Black
Dante W. Harper
Melissa London Hilfers
Lauren Ashley Smith
Patric M. Verrone
David A. Goodman, Ex-Officio
Marjorie David, Ex-Officio
Beau Willimon, Ex-Officio
Kathy McGee, Ex-Officio
Bob Schneider, Ex-Officio
Tomorrow: Part 3