SAG-AFTRA, Studios Reach Agreement on Successor Contract

Dave McNary

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Negotiators for Hollywood studios and SAG-AFTRA have reached an agreement on a three-year successor deal to the current performers union contract on feature films and primetime television after more than a month of talks.

Representatives of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers had no comment Thursday about the deal other than saying the tentative agreement will go to the SAG-AFTRA National Board for review. The union said the agreement will be sent out for ratification to its 160,000 members once the board approves.

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SAG-AFTRA said the total package contained increases worth $318 million to members over the three years, including gains in residuals paid for high-budget subscription streaming; increases to the contribution rate to the pension, health and retirement funds (up to 2%, including optional wage diversions); and “groundbreaking” improvements to provisions governing nudity, simulated sex and sexual harassment for all performers.

SAG-AFTRA President and Negotiating Committee Chair Gabrielle Carteris said, “We are living in transformational times. With all that is happening in the world right now, we accomplished something significant, with gains in streaming residuals and increased contributions to the benefits plans. I am proud of the historic protections we achieved for SAG-AFTRA members, particularly women working in scenes related to nudity and simulated sex.”

SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator David White said, “This agreement represents significant and much needed monies to our pension, health and retirement plans, and compensation gains designed to protect the current and next generation of our membership, particularly in the area of high-budget subscription streaming residuals. We also have specific wins for weekly stunt performers and background performers, in addition to language codifying much-needed improvements in the critical area of nudity and simulated sex scenes.”

Under the new agreement, the union also conformed to the extension of the existing domestic travel protocol by allowing international short flights (less than 1,000 air miles) to be booked as coach internationally. Long-distance flights will still require producers to travel performers in business class.

“In addition, the union secured an additional protection requiring access to private lounges and priority boarding privileges, when available for short trips in coach outside of North America,” SAG-AFTRA said. “This provides security for performers who may be recognized in these airports due to exhibition of their work in international markets.”

The talks between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP began on April 27 on a remote basis due to the coronavirus pandemic with both sides pledging to adhere to a news blackout until the talks were completed. The SAG-AFTRA contract has a June 30 expiration.

SAG-AFTRA had been following the close-to-the-vest playbook of the Directors Guild of America. The DGA deal, ratified April 2, includes gains in residuals for members working on original SVOD series, increases in employer contributions to the pension plan; and annual wage increases (2.5% in the first year, 3% in the second and third).

As usual, leaders of SAG-AFTRA released no details of their proposal prior to negotiations. The SAG-AFTRA national board approved the proposals for the feature film-primetime TV contract nearly a year ago in July — without ever disclosing the substance of those proposals. At the same meeting, the SAG-AFTRA leaders also approved a separate three-year deal with Netflix that expires on June 30, 2022.

The SAG-AFTRA negotiations have been taking place concurrently with separate contract talks between the AMPTP and the Writers Guild of America. Representatives of the WGA and AMPTP are also facing a June 30 expiration of the current film and TV contract. The WGA talks began three weeks ago on May 18 on a remote basis due to the coronavirus pandemic after two start dates were vacated.

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