It was a productive weekend for Hollywood.
After a nine-month standoff between actors and producers, a series of decisive moves between labor and management heralded what appeared to be the end of a long, cold silence for the entertainment industry’s key players.
On Sunday, the Screen Actors Guild’s national board approved a tentative agreement between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers covering film and TV work, which was struck on Friday.
The board voted 53.38 percent to 46.62 percent to recommend the contract soon after 4 p.m., according to a SAG statement.
SAG’s task force — headed by the national board’s dominant faction Unite for Strength — won the battle over the date of the two-year contract’s expiration date. The approved pact will expire June 30, 2011 — the same date AFTRA’s primetime TV contract is set to expire. The WGA’s contract with the studios’ group will expire a month earlier. Hopefully, this will allow the Hollywood unions to collaborate on their negotiation strategies.
In order to solidify the 2011 date, SAG’s task force took the issue of force majeure off the table. Force majuere ensures that producers will pay actors a percentage of their salaries in case of a work stoppage out of the guild’s control, such as a strike by another union. SAG contends that the studios owe actors
as much as $10 million in force majuere payments that should have been paid during last year’s writers’ strike.
For now, SAG members will have to negotiate with their employers individually to obtain those payments.
And Saturday, the guild along with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists unanimously approved new contracts covering conditions for the shooting of commercials, worth about $36 million in additional payments.
The new contract, struck with a joint policy committee for the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, added $21 million to health and pension funds, and provides a new structure for commercials for the Internet and other new media.
The contract between SAG and the AMPTP will be sent to SAG’s rank-and-file membership with the board’s recommendation to ratify in early May.
SAG’s negotiations with the AMPTP ended bitterly last February when the studios insisted that the new contract expire in 2012.
Except for the earlier expiration date and no force majeure, the proposed agreement is similar to the deal offered by the studios last fall. It includes 3.5 percent annual increases, including a three percent wage increase, a .5 percent pension and health contribution and a 3.5 percent wage increase in the contract’s second year.
SAG’s statement infers that the new-media structure included in the agreement is the same as stated in the AMPTP’s "last, best and final offer" — the same terms that AFTRA, the WGA and DGA have already accepted.
The guild stated the proposed deal includes "a new media structure that tracks those achieved by other industry unions, resulting in gains for actors including jurisdiction on all derivative, made-for new media productions … [and] residuals for ad-supported streaming of feature films and television programs."
However, the statement did not include details of the new-media structure, other than to note that the residuals for exhibition of TV and theatrical movies on consumer pay platforms are greater than the DVD residuals.
The contract also includes an additional five background actors to be covered in feature films and increased compensation for guest star premium from 7.5 percent to 10 percent.
In a prepared statement, the AMPTP said: "The new AMPTP-SAG agreement is the eighth major labor agreement reached by AMPTP since the start of 2008 and the 312th such agreement in AMPTP’s 27-year history. Because both sides were willing to compromise we now have an agreement that will provide SAG members with meaningful wage boosts, pension increases, first-class health benefits, and a complete set of new media rights and residuals. With this agreement in place, our entire industry can work together to overcome the enormous economic challenges before us."
Now that the contract will be voted upon by the membership, the work truly begins for SAG’s opposition factions, Unite for Strength and Membership First. UFS will encourage members to ratify the contract, while Membership First will campaign for members to reject it.
Guild national president Alan Rosenberg, who is supported by Membership First, gave a terse statement that reflected his party’s views.
"I urge members to carefully review both the pros and cons in the referendum materials, and exercise their right to vote," Rosenberg said in a statement.
"We are pleased that Screen Actors Guild members will soon be voting on a deal for television and motion pictures," said SAG’s interim national executive director David White, who was hired by UFS after the faction took power and fired then-NED Doug Allen. "We’re eager to get our members back to work and to focus now on the challenges ahead, particularly on initiating a comprehensive effort to thoughtfully plan for the future."
In September, SAG members rejected the AMPTP’s offer in a poll sent by the Membership First-led administration. UFS contested that the survey was a "push poll" and only 10 percent of those who received ballots returned them.
Membership First got an early start in protesting the latest contract Saturday and Sunday morning by holding rallies in the parking lot of SAG’s national headquarters in Hollywood.
"If we do nothing, WE WILL LOSE OUR RESIDUALS!," Membership First proponents James McAuley and Tom Furlano wrote in an email sent Friday announcing the protests. "Everybody in SAG who knows what’s at stake, knows that this is horrible contract, but a slight majority on our National Board is afraid because of the economy and they want to push it through thinking that we can strike in two years to get our residuals back. This is very improbable …
These residuals, that we are being asked to give up, have been fought for from the fifties on and they were hard fought for. If we give them up now, we will be giving them up forever."
Ned Vaughn, board member and leader of UFS, and SAG 1st vice president Anne-Marie Johnson, spokesperson for Membership First, did not respond to requests for comment.
The details of the agreement with the AMPTP released by SAG are:
* A two-year term of agreement concluding June 30, 2011.
* Effective annual increases comprised of 3.0% in wage increases and .5% in pension contributions upon ratification, and a 3.5% wage increase one year following ratification.
* A new media structure that tracks those achieved by other industry unions, resulting in gains for actors including: Jurisdiction on all derivative, made-for new media productions; automatic jurisdiction on all high-budget, original, made-for new media productions; plus jurisdiction on low budget original, new media productions that employee at least one covered performer.
* Residuals for exhibition of TV and Theatrical motion pictures on consumer pay platforms (Electronic Sell Through) at a greater percentage than those paid for DVD distribution.
* Residuals for ad-supported streaming of feature films and television programs.
* Residuals for derivative new media programs.
* Additional five covered background actors in feature films. From 50 to 53 covered background positions upon ratification of the contract, and from 53 to 55 covered background positions in year two. Adds one covered background position in TV, from 19 to 20, upon ratification.
* Increased compensation for guest star premium from 7.5% to 10%.?
* Increased trailer money break from $2,500 to $3,000, or more per week.
* Increased overtime money break for three-day performers from $2,700 to $3,000.