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Thursday January 17, 2019

Writers Guild of America, East Reach Landmark Contract with Peacock Productions

Writers Guild of America, East Reach Landmark Contract with Peacock Productions;
New Deal Establishes Nonfiction Television Industrywide Portable Healthcare Plan

NEW YORK, NY (January 17, 2019) – Writer-Producers at Comcast/NBCUniversal’s nonfiction television production company Peacock Productions has ratified their first collective bargaining agreement with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).

The agreement includes a landmark provision that addresses one of the most fundamental industrywide concerns: Portable health benefits. Peacock has agreed to contribute fully to the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan, which enables Peacock’s Associate Producers (APs) and Producers to obtain affordable, high-quality group health coverage plus participate in the Flex Plan’s 401(k) benefit.

The WGAE recently won Flex Plan contributions for freelancers at Vice Media, including nonfiction channel VICELAND. In addition, Optomen Productions has agreed to a “trigger” provision which would put that shop into the Flex Plan once a total of five employers sign on to the program.

Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East, explaining why the Flex Plan benefits are a vital gain, said, “Nonfiction television Writer-Producers move from company to company as their shows wrap.  Some producers make health benefits, but those benefits don’t mean much to freelance employees as it takes too long to qualify, the benefits aren’t worth the out-of-pocket cost, and employer-paid coverage terminates when the employee moves on.  By contrast, if an employer pays contributions to the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan on behalf of a WGAE member, those contributions remain at the Flex Plan even if the employee changes jobs.  The money can still be used to buy Flex Plan insurance or cover eligible benefits.  As the WGAE negotiates more and more contracts that provide for employer contributions to the Flex Plan, health benefits in nonfiction television will become truly portable.”

The Peacock contract also includes:

  • Comp time for all WGAE members, including producers.  Nonfiction TV can be a demanding field, particularly towards the end of scheduled productions.  Peacock APs and Producers who find themselves working long hours at “crash” time will be entitled to paid comp time, protected by the contract.  This is in addition to paid time off plus paid holidays.
  • Signing bonuses.  Because so many APs and Producers at Peacock have enough experience to earn significantly more than an entry-level rate, the WGAE focused on how to get more pay to those above-minimum employees.  We won an average signing bonus of $650.
  • Paid Time Off.  Peacock APs and Producers will have 8 PTO days a year.  An important precedent for freelancers in nonfiction.
  • Minimums and yearly increases to the minimums.

David Van Taylor, a former Writer-Producer at Peacock Productions and a member of the WGAE Nonfiction Industrywide Organizing Committee, said, “In the end, we achieved a far better contract than anyone imagined when we started. The long battle ultimately strengthened our resolve, our solidarity, and our power. This contract, especially with its portable health insurance, will serve as a model for making sustainable careers possible in nonfiction television.”

In addition to Peacock Productions, the WGAE has collective bargaining agreements with Vice Media, Optomen Productions, Lion Television, Sharp Entertainment and represents writer-producers at ITV’s Kirkstall Road Enterprises and Leftfield Pictures.

ABOUT WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST
The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing writers in film, television, news and new media. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit wgaeast.org.

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