SAG and AFTRA Reach New Major-Contract Deal With Producers

As suspected, talent unions get only 2% minimum wage increases on new tentative three-year broadcast TV/theatrical agreement; they do secure 10% health and pension funding increases

As they promised, the new moderate, rancor-free leadership of the Screen Actors Guild has worked peacefully with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to jointly negotiate a new major-contract deal with the producers.

No strike. No nasty rhetoric … but the labor organizations were only able to secure 2 percent minimum wage increases on a new three year prime-time broadcast TV/theatrical deal.

The labor orgs did, however, receive 10 percent funding increases to their pension and health funds. According to a SAG statement, the increase represents the largest-ever dollar-value bump to these funds.

The new agreement increases the total "P&H" contribution from 15 percent to 16.5 percent.

The deal — which covers motion pictures and broadcast and pay-cable prime-time TV for SAG, and prime-time TV for AFTRA — replaces one that expires June 30, 2011.

The agreement is tentative, pending membership approval by both talent orgs.

SAG and AFTRA made the deal with the AMPTP on the tail end of a six-week negotiating period that started on Sept. 27, with the groups working until the wee hours of Sunday morning to finally come to terms.

The agreement was in line with recent deals carved out by the Alliance of Motion Picture Television Producers.

In July, for example, the Teamsters Local 399, which represents Hollywood transportation workers, was only able to carve out 2 percent wage increases (the union wanted 3 percent) but got concessions on pension-and-health funding.

So is it a good deal? As always, that depends on who you ask.

SAG's moderate-minded majority, which is focused on re-approaching the decades-old merger proposition with AFTRA, will cast the deal as the best possible outcome, given the sour economy.

Their dissonant critics in the fast-disappearing Membership First coalition believe SAG's leadership — spearheaded by national president Ken Howard and chief negotiator David White — rushed into a bad deal with the AMPTP in order to prove they could negotiate cooly and calmly alongside AFTRA.

"All they care about is merging with AFTRA," one Membership First denizen recently told TheWrap.

The new deal, SAG dissonants say, notably lacks improvements on new-media compensation.

"We screwed the WGA," added the Membership First member, noting that dynamics of pattern bargaining will make it difficult for the Writers Guild of America to achieve one of its primary stated goals, that is improving compensation on new media.

In the end, with Howard's Unite for Strength coalition commanding 75 percent of the voting power on the board of SAG's Hollywood Division, and Membership First clinging to only a handful of remaining national board seats, might will make right.

Before re-convening on Monday at AMPTP headquarters to discuss a new basic-cable agreement — a boiler-plate process, since the just-agreed-upon major TV/film contract will set most of the terms — Howard is set to lead small morning gathering on Sunday called the "Presidents for One Union Meeting," alongside his AFTRA counterpart, Roberta Reardon.

Here's the full SAG press release. More to come…

Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA Reach Tentative Agreement with AMPTP on New Television and Feature Film Contracts

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 7, 2010)—Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA, AFL-CIO) have reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on successor agreements to the Producers-Screen Actors Guild Codified Basic Agreement for feature motion pictures, scripted network primetime television and pay television programs, Exhibit A of the AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting (covering scripted network primetime and pay television programs), and The CW Supplement.

The new three-year agreement is subject to approval by the Joint National Board of Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, and ratification by the unions’ memberships. The current contracts expire on June 30, 2011, and the new three-year agreement will be effective from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2014.

Highlights of the new tentative agreement include:

·       The term of the agreement is 3 years commencing July 1, 2011

·       A 6% wage increase over the term of the agreement with 2% in each of the three years, effective July 1, 2011, 2012 and 2013

·       A 10% increase in the current rate of employer contributions paid to the Screen Actors Guild Pension & Health Plans and AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds, bringing the total contribution rate to 16.5% effective July 1, 2011.  This represents the largest dollar value increase to the plans, under these contracts, since the plans were founded and is  the largest percentage increase to the plans in more than two decades

·       Two additional background positions in theatrical and one additional background position in television in the Western Zones

·       An expansion of major role provisions to apply to new pay television series commencing in their second season

·       Expanded union coverage over made for new media productions

·       Increases in the area of money and schedule breaks

·       Improved contract language to increase equal employment opportunities for union performers.

The unions also agreed to modifications in the travel provisions of the contracts.

Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard, said, “Strengthening the Pension and Health Plans was our top priority in these negotiations – making such a significant gain in that area was a vital achievement. Increased wages across the contract and the expansion of the major role premium into pay television will not only put more money in performers’ pockets, but will provide yet another boost to our P&H funds. I’m grateful to have worked closely with AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon and want to give special thanks to SAG Chief Negotiator David White and his bargaining team. All the staff and members of this joint committee, from both unions, deserve praise for their focus and dedication. We had to make some difficult decisions, but working together, we’ve reached a deal that will protect our essential pension and health benefits for years to come.”

 AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon said, “I am extremely pleased we met our goal of increasing contributions to our retirement and pension plans, and that we successfully completed this negotiation now to protect the needs of performers early in the process. I applaud AFTRA Chief Negotiator Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, and I thank Screen Actors Guild Co-Chair President Howard for his strong and supportive leadership. Our joint negotiating committee worked together seamlessly and in solidarity, and I am very proud of their work.”

Details of the new agreement will be submitted for approval to the Joint National Board of Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA. Upon approval, the pact will be sent out for joint ratification by the unions’ memberships.

Representatives of the following organizations attended one or more of the negotiating sessions as observers: Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW), Directors Guild of America (DGA), International Brotherhood of Teamsters,(IBT), American Federation of Musicians (AFM), and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

Formal negotiations between the 26-member Joint Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA Negotiating Committee and the AMPTP began on Monday, Sept. 27, in Los Angeles. Talks were preceded by months of joint wages and working conditions meetings held this past summer.