SAG-AFTRA Board OKs Ad Pact, Layoffs of 60 Staffers

As contract goes to the membership, the union says it will cut about 10 percent of workforce and shutter 10 offices

The good news out of the SAG-AFTRA board meeting Sunday was the recently negotiated deal with advertisers on new three-year television and radio commercials contracts was approved and will now go to the membership for ratification.

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The bad news was that around 60 of the union’s staffers – about 10 percent — will be laid off in a restructuring plan the union’s administration says will help it make up a $6 million budget deficit. The layoffs will begin in May and will come mainly from the Los Angeles office. The cuts come after buyouts resulted in the exit of roughly 80 staffers in September,

The restructuring also calls for the consolidation and closure of 10 of the union’s 25 offices nationwide. SAG-AFTRA will refocus its geographic footprint to maintain brick-and-mortar offices in 15 markets across the country, including eight major markets, and seven broadcast/emerging markets that together represent over 93 percent of the union’s membership.

The eight major markets are Los Angeles, New York, Washington-Mid Atlantic, Chicago, San Francisco, New England, Philadelphia, and Miami. The seven broadcast/emerging markets are Dallas-Ft. Worth, Seattle, Atlanta, Nashville, Hawaii, Ohio-Pittsburgh and Missouri Valley. The geographic restructuring process will take place over the next several months.

The union's national executive director David White said that the cutback plan "relates to legacy costs and positions the union for long-term health and power. These moves ensure that we can adapt to the evolving industries in which our members earn a living, and are better able to protect them wherever they work around the world."

The plan calls for the creation of a member review committee that will work with the professional staff to review the impact of the transition and report back to the Board in April 2014.

White sought to quell members' concerns about reduced services or scaled-back representation in the long-term.

“We have to think differently about how we move forward in the world to support over 165,000 professionals who work in front of a camera or behind a microphone around the globe,” he said.

The commercials contract was the first negotiated by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists after the two organizations merged in March 2012. 

The deal will cover an estimated $1 billion dollars in TV and radio commercials work. It includes a one-time 6 percent wage increase over the term of the contract (April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2016) and an increase in the pension and health contribution to 16.8 percent, up from 15.5 percent.

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.

In connection with the first national contract referendum for SAG-AFTRA, the board approved a motion offering members the opportunity to vote online, as well as by traditional paper ballots if they prefer, to ratify the commercials agreements.

All members in good standing as of April 1, 2013, will automatically receive a postcard with voting instructions. The postcard will be mailed on or about May 1, 2013. Tabulation of ratification votes received by the voting deadline of May 31, 2013, 5 p.m. PDT (electronically or by mail) will be completed that day.