Layoffs May Steal Show From Ad Pact When SAG-AFTRA Board Meets

The union's leaders will vote on proposed commercials contract and consider staff cuts

The national board of SAG-AFTRA meets this weekend, and potential staff layoffs — rather than the blessing of the tentative deal recently reached with advertisers on a new commercials contract — looks like the hot topic.

The cuts could be as deep as 80 employees — roughly 15 percent of the union's staff — according to individuals with knowledge of the proposal.

The latest restructuring plan comes a little more than a year after the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors joined forces, and it could save the newly merged union as much as $8 million annually. But some within the membership are concerned that the cuts, coming on top of last September's buyouts of roughly 80 employees, will erode the union's services.

Executive director David White, in a memo to board members obtained by BackStage this week, called the reports of a potential restructuring “premature and not official."

He acknowledged, however, that "we expect to have a full discussion about this matter in connection with the National Board meeting this weekend."

Also read: Contract Time Is Coming: Now, What About That Combined SAG-AFTRA Clout?

The layoffs talk could take some of the spotlight away from the new commercials pact, the first contract negotiated since SAG and AFTRA merged last march.

The proposed commercials deal appears headed for approval. The details of pact, which covers an estimated $1 billion dollars in TV and radio commercials work, remain under wraps. The two sides instituted a news blackout when the talks began on Feb. 14, and have stuck with it, even after a tentative accord was reached on April 6.

But some provisions of the proposed agreement have seeped out. It calls for a one-time 6 percent increase in wages over the term of the contract (April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2016).

The pension and health contribution would rise to 16.8 percent, up from 15.5 percent, and there would be increases in meal allowances and travel per diem. Program fees on Spanish-language commercials would increase by 10 percent, but compensation rates are unchanged for commercials made for the Internet or new media.

Also read: SAG-AFTRA Board Urges Single Health, Pension Plan

If approved by the board, the commercials deal would be sent to the general memership for a ratification vote.

SAG-AFTRA represents more than 165,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other entertainment and media professionals.