Directors Guild Leaders Say Union Preparing to “Fight” in “Difficult” Negotiations Environment

Directors Guild Leaders Say Union Preparing to “Fight” in “Difficult” Negotiations Environment

Directors Guild of America leaders say the union is “prepared for a fight” in its upcoming round of negotiations with studios and streamers in an extraordinarily “difficult and complicated” industry environment.

“We have been preparing for more than a year to execute our Guild’s highest purpose: to protect your economic and creative rights,” DGA negotiations chair John Avnet and DGA national executive director Russell Hollander wrote in a message to members on Thursday. “We are ready for negotiations and, if necessary, we are prepared for a fight. These negotiations will shape the future of our industry.”

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The union’s current basic agreement contract expires June 30, 2023. Traditionally, the DGA kicks off the industry negotiating cycle, with their talks occurring before those of the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA. In its latest message, the union did not say when negotiations will commence.

The DGA represents around 18,000 directors, assistant directors, unit production managers and stage managers, among others.

In their message, Avnet and Hollander previewed key priorities for the union as it heads into negotiations, including increasing streaming residuals and improving wages to “account for cost of living growth.” The union also cited its interest in raising set safety standards, improving industry diversity, protecting the Guild’s health and pension plans, receiving more transparency from employers and “fighting to protect the role and vision of all Directors, and, in particular, television Directors.”

Still, the leaders struck a note of caution about how their unions’ leverage might be diminished by industry headwinds. “This promises to be an extremely challenging negotiating environment – one of the most difficult and complicated we have faced in many years,” they wrote, with industry employers sure to surface inflation challenges and the possibility of a coming recession in talks. Meanwhile, the major studios that are members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the employers’ negotiating body, have all come to prioritize streaming content, which typically cedes less backend compensation for creatives, in the years since the DGA ratified its last agreement, in 2020.

Avnet, Todd Holland and Karen Gaviola were tapped in 2021 as chair and co-chairs, respectively, of the Guild’s Feature Film and Television Negotiations Committee, which boasts around 80 members. Ultimately, however, the DGA said to its members on Thursday, “Our strength at the negotiating table comes from you. United, we have proven time and time again that we can win strong contracts with big gains, even in tough environments.”

While DGA negotiations with employers don’t tend to get very contentious outside the negotiating table, they do attract attention, as their contract changes can set the tone for talks at other unions through pattern bargaining.