The Directors Guild of America informed members Saturday that it has decided to hold off on bargaining a new contract with the major studios until later this spring, saying the studios are not yet ready to address its major issues.
The guild has already signaled that it expects an unusually tough round of bargaining this year. The current Basic Agreement is set to expire on June 30.
In previous cycles, the DGA has often met well before the expiration date to hammer out a new agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. But in a letter to membership, the union leadership said it is “not in our interest to begin negotiations well in advance of our contract expiration.”
“We will work with the studios to schedule bargaining dates for later this spring,” the leadership wrote.
That decision could allow the Writers Guild of America to begin its negotiations with the AMPTP first. The WGA contract is set to expire on May 1.
The sequencing matters because the DGA has a reputation, among the other guilds, for being more accommodating to the studios. The studios frequently strike an agreement with the DGA and then seek to use that as a template for deals with the other above-the-line unions.
Allowing the WGA — which has a more combative reputation — to go first could avoid that dynamic. SAG-AFTRA is also beginning its negotiation cycle, as internal member meetings have begun to build consensus on the issues.
All three guilds are focused on increasing streaming residual formulas, as more and more content has migrated to streaming platforms. The DGA told members it is also focused on wages, safety, creative rights and diversity.
“If the studios do not address these issues, they know we are prepared to fight,” the union leaders wrote. The letter was signed by Jon Avnet, the negotiations chair, Karen Gaviola, negotiations co-chair, Todd Holland, negotiations co-chair, and Russell Hollander, the national executive director.
The leaders said the decision to wait was made after “preliminary conversations” with the studios to see if they are prepared to deal with the issues. The 80-member negotiating committee decided unanimously on Saturday to hold off.
“It comes down to this: we are partners in this business,” they wrote. “This means negotiating a new contract that continues to treat our members fairly and with respect… This cycle’s negotiations are about more than just bargaining a strong contract for the next three years — they are about setting the course for the future of our industry and that is what we are going to achieve.”
The full text of the letter follows:
Dear DGA Members:
After careful consideration, our 80-person BA/FLTTA Negotiating Committee unanimously determined today that it is not in our interest to begin negotiations well in advance of our contract expiration. We will work with the Studios to schedule bargaining dates for later this Spring. As you know, our major contracts expire June 30.
Our approach to bargaining is, and has always been, guided by one simple principle: we will only negotiate when we believe we will win the best possible deal. Sometimes this has meant negotiating several months in advance of our contract expiration, if we feel the Studios are prepared to satisfactorily address our concerns in exchange for the stability an early negotiation can bring to everyone.
In other negotiations cycles, we have won strong gains by waiting to negotiate until later in the process. Some of our most important gains, including the establishment of our groundbreaking Pay TV residuals formula, have been won when we negotiated closer to the expiration of our contract. Regardless of when we bargain, our history, including recent negotiation cycles, has been that we have achieved industry leading contracts that have protected our members in the business.
Over the last eighteen months, we have been following our normal, thorough process to prepare for successful bargaining. That preparation includes rigorous research, strategy development, consulting with leading industry experts, building a negotiating committee that represents our diverse membership, surveying and talking with members to develop our priorities, and much more. This process also includes preliminary conversations with the Studios to determine whether they are prepared to address the issues our members care most about. At this point, the Studios are not yet prepared to address our key issues.
The date we begin to bargain is far from the most important issue. The more important issue at stake is whether the Studios will decide to appropriately address the concerns of our members. Those concerns include wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights and diversity. If the Studios do not address these issues, they know we are prepared to fight.
It comes down to this: we are partners in this business. This means negotiating a new contract that continues to treat our members fairly and with respect, that recognizes and rewards our vital contributions to this industry no matter how it evolves, that reinforces our shared interest in building a healthy, vibrant, stable business that will entertain and inspire audiences around the world.
Our process and preparation will continue – expect to hear a lot more from us in the coming weeks and months – until we have won a stellar contract. This cycle’s negotiations are about more than just bargaining a strong contract for the next three years – they are about setting the course for the future of our industry and that is what we are going to achieve.
Jon Avnet (Negotiations Chair), Karen Gaviola (Negotiations Co-Chair), Todd Holland (Negotiations Co-Chair) and Russ Hollander (National Executive Director)