Unions Secure Historically Lucrative Deal;
Across-the-Board Gains for Performers Working at Scale
SAG, AFTRA Presidents Endorse Inclusion of Opposition Views
in Referendum Materials on TV/Theatrical Deal
(Los Angeles, January 20, 2005) – Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) announced today that they have negotiated a sweeping $200 million agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on a new three-year television and theatrical contract.
Delivering the most lucrative deal in the history of actor/producer collective bargaining, the tentative agreement includes gains across-the-board and for every category of performer – series regulars to day performers, background actors to stunt performers, dancers to choreographers – with the most significant advances coming for performers working at scale who rely most heavily on union protections.
In addition to a 9% across-the-board minimum pay raise over three years, the deal includes the largest ever inflow of employer money into the unions’ health and pension plans, protects residuals for WB and UPN actors on one-hour shows, increases residuals for made-for-pay TV programs, and puts in place the framework of an innovative “banking” system that will provide ongoing health coverage for series regulars after shows are canceled. The unions’ also negotiated the largest increase in background jobs and wages in over a decade, higher wages and better safeguards for stunt coordinators, greater protections for dancers and new health and pension coverage for choreographers. SAG and AFTRA also agreed to join writers and directors in a critical partnership to combat the onslaught of reality programming.
SAG and AFTRA began talks with the studios and networks on December 6, 2004. A SAG/AFTRA negotiating committee of 26 individuals – all of whom are members of both unions – participated daily in the talks. Leading the negotiations for the unions were SAG President Melissa Gilbert and AFTRA President John Connolly, along with chief negotiators Bob Pisano, the national executive director/CEO of SAG, and Greg Hessinger, the national executive director of AFTRA. The tentative agreement, approved by the joint negotiating committee today, would run from July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2008.
“In an era when the entire labor movement is under attack from employers, we negotiated the richest deal in SAG’s history,” said SAG’s Gilbert. “We locked in raises for all performers, shored up our health plans and improved working conditions for critical constituencies. After another year in which reality television devoured more primetime hours, we partnered with writers and directors on an initiative that will promote scripted programming – an antidote against the further demise of the ensemble cast – while ensuring day performers and guest stars remain protected. We met the expected obstinacy from producers on DVDs and fought the issue until the very end. But it would be neither wise nor responsible to pursue our only alternative – shutting the town down – and risk losing the historic gains we achieved.”
AFTRA’s Connolly said: “I am proud of what we accomplished in this agreement. We live in a labor environment today where working people are forced to strike – and often unsuccessfully –just to retain what they have. In our case, we achieved the richest deal ever for our members. We made gains in nearly every priority area – wages, health and retirement, residuals, stunt and background performers and further unification of our TV agreement. We went at the producers hard on the DVD issue; it was an uphill battle from the start, and the next round would have been a lockout or a strike. Under the current formula, DVD revenues to working actors were up 54% just over the last three years that have been reported. It would be irresponsible to force working actors to put their careers and families on the line through a work stoppage when we were able to negotiate a deal that makes sense for so many working performers. We just picked up $200 million without a strike. That’s a victory.”
Gilbert added: “Before the ink is even dry on this deal, opponents will cry out defiantly that we did not fight to the bitter end. They are wrong. Just a few years after a strike over the commercials contract, their approach would bring working actors to the brink of another work stoppage and recklessly gamble with the careers and lives of our working members. In the face of a $200-million deal, the members of our negotiating committee chose to focus on the undeniable fact that the vast majority of working actors will be far better off under this deal.”
Highlights of the agreement, worth an estimated total $200 million, include:
· Increased Minimum Wages For All Performers
A 9% raise over three years – 3% each year of the contract beginning on Oct. 1, 2005, identical to the recent DGA deal – worth approximately $144 million that comes on top of the 2.5% increase in minimums negotiated as part of the one-year agreement now in effect.
· United Front to Promote New Scripted Programs Over Reality TV
Under this deal, SAG and AFTRA would join their sister unions in allowing networks to rerun the first three episodes of a new series within 60 days of its launch without additional payment to the series regulars. SAG and AFTRA achieved a compromise that exempts day performers and guest stars, ensuring they are fully compensated since they are not assured future employment should the added exposure help the program find its audience.
· Increased Residuals for WB, UPN Players
The agreement closes a loophole created by technology that gave employers an opening to dramatically lower residuals for WB and UPN performers on one hour shows. The new contract will ensure the present higher residual rates for series performers on one-hour shows on the WB and UPN will continue. It also will include the newly secured 3% annual increase in minimums.
· Increase in Residuals for Made-for-Pay-TV
For the first time, the unions achieved a reduction – 25% – in the number of video units, including DVD, which must be sold before residuals kick in for made-for-pay-TV dramatic programming.
· Unprecedented Expansion of Jobs for Background Actors
The eight new background jobs secured in the agreement – five for film and three for TV – marks the most significant increase in the number of covered background performer jobs in 13 years. The gains bring the total number of background jobs that must now be offered under a union contract on a union film to 50 and on a union television show to 20. This represents more than a 25% increase in television jobs secured this calendar year alone, which includes this agreement and the additional background job gained in the one-year deal currently in effect.
· Higher Wages/Better Safeguards for Stunt Coordinators
The deal raises the rest period to 10 hours for stunt coordinators, a critical increase that provides a safer working environment. Also negotiated was a wage package for all stunt coordinators above and beyond the across-the-board raise all other performers received.
· Major Increases in Employer Contributions to Pension and Health Plans
A 1% increase in employer contributions to the unions’ pension and health plans for all performers in film and television raises $60 million and the employer contribution from 13.5% to 14.5% on initial compensation. When combined with the 0.5% increase achieved early last year, this represents the largest inflow of money into the funds since its inception.
· “Earnings Bank” – Continuity of Health Benefits
For series regulars who see their roles or series end, the unions secured an agreement from producers to develop jointly with SAG and AFTRA a credit system that allows actors to “bank” eligibility credits while working that can later be used to maintain health coverage the year after their series gets cancelled.
· Greater Protections for Choreographers and Dancers
For the first time ever, choreographers can qualify for pension and health contributions and dancers will receive a 23% increase in hazard pay.
· Acknowledgement and Respect for Performers with Disabilities
The unions secured a commitment from producers to work toward including performers with disabilities in the annual casting data report provided to SAG and AFTRA.
“We secured a strong deal while averting a work slow down or stoppage that would bring significant upheaval to our members and cost us significant leverage at the bargaining table,” added Hessinger and Pisano, the unions’ chief negotiators. “We delivered a wage increase and residuals hike for our members. We’re taking a stand, alongside the directors and writers, for scripted programming, while protecting our most vulnerable members. We delivered real pension and health gains and more opportunities and protections for the majority of working actors who depend on this contract to look out for their interests. Ultimately, we were able to use the producers’ intransigence on DVDs to create the leverage necessary to advance the interests of the vast majority of working actors on many fronts.”
The tentative deal will be considered for approval by the SAG/AFTRA joint board on January 29. If approved, the agreement will be put before the unions’ respective memberships via referendum. The unions will hold a series of informational meetings for members in select cities across the U.S. in advance of that vote, which has not yet been scheduled. Dates for the informational meetings will be announced in the coming days. Members and other interested parties can visit www.sag.org for further information.
Screen Actors Guild is the nation’s largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists’ rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents nearly 120,000 working actors in film, television, industrials, commercials and music videos. The Guild exists to enhance actors’ working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists’ rights. SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, you can visit SAG online at www.sag.org
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists -- affiliated with the AFL-CIO -- is a diverse national union representing nearly 80,000 professional performers, broadcasters and recording artists in 32 Locals throughout the country. AFTRA members work as actors, broadcast journalists, dancers, singers, announcers, hosts, comedians and disc jockeys in all aspects of the media industries including television and radio, sound recordings, commercials, industrial non-broadcast, interactive games and the Internet. More information on AFTRA is available at www.aftra.com.