SAG-AFTRA National Board Approves Tentative Agreement with AMPTP and Recommends Ratification
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) National Board of Directors met today in a one-day videoconference plenary and approved the tentative agreement reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, on July 4 at 6 a.m. PT. With the board’s approval, the deal now goes to the union’s membership for ratification.
Eligible SAG-AFTRA members will vote on the proposed successor agreements covering motion pictures, scripted primetime dramatic television and new media production. The union secured significant improvements in the residuals rate paid to performers for exhibition of their performances on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon. Under the new terms, actors will receive residuals for exhibition on subscription video on-demand platforms earlier, now after 90 days instead of after one year. The new formula delivers a 300% increase in residuals to performers within their first two years when their work is exhibited worldwide on Netflix.
Background actors achieved many gains as well, including superior overtime rules for background actors working in the west coast zones, a higher minimum for photo doubles, a pay increase for work on shows for the CW as a result of applying the background schedules from the television contract and a new standard voucher form that will minimize the need for background actors to supply social security numbers adding real protections against identity theft.
SAG-AFTRA also achieved a historic breakthrough in the rules governing travel for television performers, including an up to five-fold increase in the fees due to series performers who work at locations away from home. The travel rules for television were also rationalized and clarified, closing many loopholes and ambiguities that have allowed for abuse.
The board overwhelmingly approved the tentative agreement 77.4 percent to 22.5 percent and recommended a vote of “yes” to ratify the contracts.
Minimums improved by 2.5 percent retroactive to July 1, 2017. In the second and third years of the deal, the increases will be 3 percent unless the SAG-AFTRA National Board elects to divert a half percent of the wage increase into a benefit fund contribution rate increase, in which case the wage increase will be 2.5 percent. Flat deal stunt coordinators working in television under Schedule K-III will receive a 7.5-percent increase instead of a 2.5-percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2017, and will receive the general increase thereafter.
The rate of contribution to the SAG Pension and AFTRA Retirement funds will increase by a half percent retroactive to July 1, 2017. The SAG-AFTRA National Board may elect to increase those contribution rates by a further half percent in each of the second and third years of the deal, in which case the wage rate increases for those years will decrease from 3 percent to 2.5 percent.
Yes, we made significant improvements to the residuals applicable to High Budget Subscription Video on Demand (HBSVOD) programs. As a reminder, we cover employment on these programs on the same basis as traditional television, including on-camera and voiceover work. The improvements we negotiated will deliver, for example, a 300-percent increase in residuals to performers within the first two years of worldwide exhibition of their performances on Netflix programs, as follows:
- Additional First-Year Residual Payment: HBSVOD residuals are now due 90 days after initial availability of the program instead of one year later (except for programs made for a platform with fewer than 1 million subscribers). This means residuals are due sooner. It also means two residual payments instead of one in the first 15 months after initial availability of the program.
- New Foreign Residual: We have added a foreign residual for availability on any related or affiliated foreign platform, so availability on Netflix in the UK, for example, will now trigger an additional payment.
- Higher Ceilings: HBSVOD residuals are calculated based on a performer’s actual compensation on the episode up to a ceiling. Those ceilings increased across the board by 5 percent, which translates directly into higher residuals for many performers.
- Even Higher Ceilings: In addition to the across-the-board ceiling increases, we negotiated special outsized increases of 16.5 percent to the ceiling for 90-minute programs and 18.7 percent for feature-length programs. These increases will translate directly into higher residuals for many performers working on these programs.
- Subscriber Factor: A “subscriber factor” has been added to the formula, which means higher residuals for programs on the largest of these platforms, namely Netflix.
Yes, there were several other improvements relevant to work in new media:
- First, the residual due for free streaming (i.e., advertiser-supported video on demand on platforms like abc.com, cbs.com and nbc.com) also improved. This is the residual due, for example, when a network exhibits a television show on its website for the first year after the seven or 17-day initial exhibition window has expired. Effective July 1, 2018, this residual will go from 5.5 percent of total applicable minimum for a 26-week period of availability to 6 percent of total applicable minimum.
- Second, the streaming residual due for a derivate made-for-new-media program (e.g., The Walking Dead Webisodes) will increase from $20 to $22 for a program 10 minutes or less and from $25 to $27 for a program longer than 10 minutes.
- Third, we improved the enforceability of our contract in new media by securing an agreement from producers to provide SAG-AFTRA with certain information, including number of episodes per season, budget, location, timing and contact information automatically for each new media series and to update the information upon request.
The travel rules have been a heavily disputed area, particularly as applied to television. We achieved clarity in the area of television with some of the clarified rules reflecting current producer practice and others reflecting significant improvements. All the changes are applicable to television only.
- Series regulars bargaining “relocation fees” will find minimums stated for those fees for the first time ever. The new minimums are significantly higher than what series performers have been bargaining for themselves:
- $10,000 per year for each of the first four seasons of a series or term performer’s engagement on a series with an order of fewer than 13 episodes.
- $10,000 per year for each of the first two season of a series or term performer’s engagement on a series with an order of 13 or more episodes.
- The new rules promote consistent, national enforcement in the area of travel by removing distinctions between performers engaged in California and performers engaged outside of California, addressing a longstanding historical inequity.
- Lodging at Producer’s Base (other than for series or term performers subject to a relocation allowance), which had not previously been required by the contract, is now mandatory. Producer’s Base will mean the geographic area where the majority of principal photography occurs for a season of a television series.
- Airfare and related ground transportation to and from Los Angeles must now be provided for performers traveling for work taking place in Los Angeles.
- Previously, when traveling performers, Producers could negotiate for up to three “idle days” paid at $75 each before performers’ contractual salary commenced and could use one of them as a travel day for performers engaged outside of California. Now, there are only two such “idle days” available, they must be paid at $100 each and they cannot be used for days spent traveling.
No, we did not give away “portal to portal,” which remains the rule for performers working on an overnight location. The deal we made reflects current practice in the applicability of “portal to portal.” Portal to portal has never been due for performers working at Producer’s Base. Moreover, the application of the travel rules to episodic television is rife with ambiguity and inconsistent practice, which has made enforcement problematic and undermined the value of any of these rules to our members.
- As a reminder, the changes we negotiated in travel do not apply to theatrical motion pictures.
- A performer workday can either be calculated “set to set,” which means beginning with the performer’s arrival on set and ending with their dismissal from the set, or “portal to portal,” which means beginning with pick up at the hotel and ending with drop off at the hotel.
- Performer workdays on “overnight location” have been calculated portal to portal, while workdays at “Producer’s Base” have been calculated set-to-set. The tentative agreement does not reflect any change in this regard.
- The problem is that the collective bargaining agreement did not define “Producer’s Base.” As television productions dispersed throughout the country, the parties disputed whether producers could treat the new locations where they were now producing episodic television as their “Producer’s Base.”
- Over the years, producers located production offices to take advantage of tax credits in the markets where they were producing episodic television and maintained a continuing presence in those markets. Because “Producer’s Base” was not defined in the collective bargaining agreement, it became clear that any challenges to producers’ claim that they had established a “Producer’s Base” in those markets were unlikely to succeed.
- Accordingly, while the tentative agreement provides that the location where the majority of principal photography for a television series takes place can be “Producer’s Base,” this merely acknowledges the reality that already exists. It does not reflect the introduction of a new term.
- As part of a deal that included this acknowledgement, we were able to achieve improvements in multiple areas as reflected above. Even more importantly, we now have clearly defined travel rules and agreements with the industry about what these rules mean. In other words, we now have enforceable travel rules in television for the first time. This is itself an enormous victory.
We obtained a commitment from management that they will provide either transportation or lodging to performers who do not believe they can drive themselves safely due to exhaustion or inclement weather. A bulletin will be circulated to all producers to confirm this commitment. Additionally, the union will be holding meetings with the executives in charge of safety at the various studios to reinforce the importance of this issue.
SAG-AFTRA focused in this cycle on establishing clarity around options. Presently, series performers held to exclusivity obligations can find the duration of their exclusivity extended for as long as two years by lengthy option periods and uncompensated option extensions.
Now, for television performers earning less than $32,000 per episode, a producer must exercise an option within one year of the last day of principal photography of the season and may only extend that option twice for up to six months per extension by paying the performer’s prior season negotiated episodic fee for each such extension.
These extensions were previously uncompensated because producers recouped the extension fees from subsequent compensation due to the performer. Now, the extension fee is not recoupable and must be paid in addition to all other compensation due to performer.
- Stunt coordinators working under a Schedule K-III flat deal contract in television will receive an outsized increase of 7.5 percent retroactive to July 1, 2017, in lieu of the 2.5-percent general increase. They will receive the general increase in the second and third years of the deal.
- In addition, stunt performers and coordinators will benefit from the general increases, increases to benefit fund contribution rates, improvement to HBSVOD and other new media residuals, clarified and enforceable travel rules in television, schedule and money break improvements and other items negotiated in this deal.
- Stunt coordinators will now be required to complete three online safety courses within the next three years and a single, centralized sexual harassment prevention training will now be required instead of the company-by-company training that presently exists.
Only two elements of this deal are specific to the “high-earning” category of series television performers: Establishing minimums for relocation fees and a deadline for the exercise of a series option. We should be proud to have addressed these pain points for our series regulars, whose earnings help to sustain our benefit plans and whose leverage helps us to achieve other gains for less recognizable segments of our membership.
The remainder of the deal reflects gains that should win the support of all performers, including:
- Historic improvements in the residuals for HBSVOD programs.
- Clarified, enforceable travel rules for performers working in television.
- Historic breakthrough in equalizing terms for background actors working on the West Coast under Schedule X-I and background actors working on the East Coast under Schedule X-II in the form of overtime improvements for West Coast background actors.
- Improvements to minimums, residuals, benefit fund contribution rates, schedule and money breaks.
Yes, there are a number of changes specifically affecting background actors.
The following changes are applicable to background actors working on both the West Coast under Schedule X-I and the East Coast under Schedule X-II:
- The photo double rate will improve to equal the stand-in rate, which means an upfront increase of nearly 17 percent.
- On programs made for the CW, the terms of Schedules X-I and X-II will now apply instead of the Network Code terms for background, which means an 18-percent upfront increase, along with applicable zones and caps.
- A standard voucher was created for both background schedules that will allow background actors to use their SAG-AFTRA ID number where a Social Security number is not otherwise required by production or the background casting company.
The following changes are applicable only to background actors working on the West Coast under Schedule X-I:
- The overtime provisions from Schedule X-II will now apply to Schedule X-I, meaning that the 11th and 12th hours of the day are paid at double time instead of time and a half.
- Reporting rules have changed through the creation of a secondary studio zone that extends 10 miles beyond the existing 30-mile zone and a new reporting provision that allows producer to designate a point within the studio zone and require reporting without mileage within a 10-mile radius of that point. Please consult the summary for further details.
Applicable to background actors under Schedule X-II: Night premium was retained despite a serious attempt by producers to remove it.
- Producers wanted to you to work longer workdays and shorter weekends and therefore made the below proposals, NONE of which were achieved because your negotiating committee held strong:
- Reduce daily turnaround from 12 to 11 hours and from 11 to 10 hours on overnight locations.
- Expand ability to reduce daily turnaround to as little as 10 hours when exterior photography is involved.
- Delay commencement of your turnaround for time spent removing hairdress and makeup.
- Reduce weekly turnaround from 36 hours to 30 hours.
- Producers wanted more unpaid hold time during which you would have to hold yourself available for production without pay and therefore made the below proposals, NONE of which were achieved because your negotiating committee held strong:
- Codify practice of “pinning” by requiring you to hold as many as 10 days available for as little as one day of work when you receive an “on or about” start date.
- Cap your payment for intervening days and add an additional drop/pick-up for certain features.
- Require you to report for preproduction recordings and stills for as little as one hour of pay.
- Producers wanted the right to bargain at the time of employment rather than at time of use for the ability to reuse photography and soundtrack in traditional media.
- Such reuse would have become a condition of employment, effectively eliminating the producer’s obligation to bargain for reuse.
- This was NOT achieved because your negotiating committee held strong.
- Producers wanted to achieve lesser terms for low budget basic cable that would have reduced your pay and residuals. This was NOT achieved because your negotiating committee held strong.
- Producers wanted to eliminate night premium for background actors working under Schedule X-I. This was NOT achieved because your negotiating committee held strong.
If you have additional questions, please email TVTheatricalContracts2017@sagaftra.org or call (800) 518-6623.
Los Angeles – Sunday, July 16, 2-4 p.m.
Pickwick Gardens Conference Center
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New York – Monday, July 17, 6-8 p.m.
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Times Square Ballroom
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Hawaii – July 24, 2017, 9-11 a.m.
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Seattle – Monday, July 24, Noon-2 p.m.
Seattle Local Office
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2017 TV/Theatrical Contracts Information Webinar – Monday, July 24, noon-2 p.m. PT/1-3 p.m. MT/2-4 p.m. CT/3-5 p.m. ET
- Arizona – Utah
- New Mexico
- New Orleans
- San Diego
- Twin Cities
Chicago – Wednesday, July 26, 6-8 p.m.
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San Francisco-Northern California – Sunday, July 30
The Bar Association of San Francisco
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San Francisco, CA 94111
Please Note: All meeting information subject to change. Check sagaftra.org and watch your email for notices with information about meetings in your area.
All paid-up SAG-AFTRA members in good standing are urged to attend this important informational meeting. This meeting is only open to paid-up SAG-AFTRA members in good standing, no guests are allowed. Parents/guardians of performers under 18 years old are welcome. No RSVP necessary.
You must show your SAG-AFTRA membership card or digital card on the app (paid thru Oct. 31, 2017) for admittance.
If you are unable to attend and have questions regarding the tentative agreement, please email TVTheatricalContracts2017@sagaftra.org or call (800) 518-6623.