DGA leaders said today that their upcoming contract negotiations with the Aliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers “promises to be an extremely challenging negotiating environment – one of the most difficult and complex we have faced in many years.”

DGA National Executive Director Russell Hollander and DGA negotiations chair Jon Avnet said in a communique to members that the upcoming talks will be made all the more difficult “with studios continuing to consolidate and become increasingly vertically integrated, and with extraordinary economic headwinds facing our industry and our nation.”

“In this environment,” they told members, “your strength and support will be more important than ever. We are committed to fighting for an entertainment industry that is fair, safe, equitable, sustainable and accessible for all.We all have a stake in issues like wages, streaming residuals, funding for our health and pension plans and more. And we are committed to ensuring that the work and contributions of directors and their teams are respected.”

The guild’s current contract expires June 30, and while no date has been set yet for the commencement of the talks, Hollander and Avnet said that the guild “has been preparing for bargaining for more than a year and a half, listening to the concerns of our members, researching the issues, and consulting with industry experts so we are in the best possible position to achieve our goals. Our strategic bargaining process is designed to ensure that we reach the strongest contract possible – a goal we can achieve because of your participation and your voice at the table. Our diverse negotiating committees represent every corner of our membership and they have been working consistently to ensure your priorities will be reflected during bargaining.”

The WGA’s contract expires May 1, but in recent bargaining cycles the DGA has come to the negotiating table first, often times setting the stage for the other guilds to follow. That may not be the case this year, however.

In their update posted on the DGA website, the DGA leaders said that “When it comes to making the decision about when to start negotiations, we are guided by one simple principle: we will only begin bargaining when we believe we have the most leverage to win the best possible deal for DGA Directors and their teams.

“Some years, that means we have negotiated early, but only when the studios agree to address our priorities and we are confident we can extract a premium for providing them with the security they need to plan their summer and fall schedules. We have used this strategy quite successfully in the past, such as our health care deals in 2004 and 2010, and our 2014 negotiations when we won the industry’s first-ever residuals formula for original SVOD projects. Other times, we have had more leverage closer to contract expiration.”

“For almost a century,” they said, “we have leveraged these strategies to make strong, fair deals for our members.  In 1939, we won our very first contract after Frank Capra called the producers’ bluff, knowing he had every leading director solidly backing him up. Since then, we have negotiated successive contracts to win fair wages, secure residuals that ensure our members are fairly compensated for the reuse of their work and establish the DGA’s Pension & Health Plans to protect our members in their retirements. In 2008, we made a game-changing deal amid a rapidly shifting media environment, becoming the first union to establish jurisdiction and residuals for original content made for new media. We also negotiated strong contract language that has allowed us and our fellow guilds to successfully challenge in arbitration studio self-dealing. And we continue to improve on our gains every time we negotiate.”

The DGA leaders pledged to their members that with six months to go before the expiration of the DGA contract, “We will start communicating with you more frequently about the bargaining preparations, the issues and what’s at stake. As the process moves forward, we want you to be informed so you can engage and communicate with your guild representatives.

“Our industry continues to evolve rapidly, but no matter how many changes we face, one principle holds steady: the work we create as directors and members of the directorial team continues to entertain billions around the world. For our industry to thrive, we must be able to build a creative and economic model that allows us to share in the success of what we make together.

“This year’s negotiations are about more than bargaining a strong contract for the next three years – they’re about setting the course for the future of our industry and ensuring the sustainability of hundreds of thousands of good, union jobs.”

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