Writers Ratify Contract Overwhelmingly

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood writers overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new three-year contract that will raise pay by more than $41 million over their previous contract.

The settlement by the Writers Guild of America has soothed fears of labor unrest that threatened earlier this year to disrupt the movie and TV industry. Two actors’ guilds were continuing their own contract negotiations

Out of 4,128 votes cast, 3,785 — or 92%– supported the deal and 343 opposed it. A simple majority of votes was required for the nearly 11,000-member guild to certify the pact.

“One of the most important gains from this bargaining was the realization that it is possible to have a real negotiation, with a real expiration date, with real bargaining and not have a strike,” said Mona Mangan, executive director of the guild’s eastern chapter. “The proof is an exceptionally good contract.”

The previous writers’ contract expired May 2, and negotiators recommended the new agreement on May 4 after a series of late-night bargaining sessions. Before the deal was reached, some feared a strike by writers would cripple TV and movie production and cost the area economy billions of dollars in lost revenue. Negotiations for the new contract began Jan. 22 and lasted nearly six weeks before breaking off March 1. They resumed April 17.

Among other changes, writers will see an increase in foreign TV residuals of about $1.3 million over the term of the contract.

Writers last went on strike in 1988 and were out for 22 weeks. The walkout cost the industry nearly $500 million and ushered in a new wave of reality programming that doesn’t rely heavily on scripts.

“This new contract is the product of one of the most difficult negotiations we have had in many years because of the complexity of the issues facing our industry,” said Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represented management in the negotiations. “We commend the WGA leadership and bargaining committee for their tireless efforts toward working on solutions.”

The contract for the two actor unions, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, expires June 30. Although analysts expect the actors to accept a contract similar to the writers’ agreement, a performers’ walkout is still possible. Talks resumed Tuesday after a nearly two-week break, leaving only 3 1/2 weeks before the contract deadline.

Leaders of the acting guilds said their priority will be improving conditions for character actors and supporting players earning less than $70,000 annually.

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