Tag Archives: AFTRA

Actors, producers to continue talks

SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers have agreed to continue their formal talks on the actors contract through Tuesday.

In a joint statement, the union and producers said they “have agreed to extend their negotiations on a day-to-day basis, excluding Sunday, through Tuesday, May 6, at 5 p.m. We have no further comment.”

The announcement came as the entertainment industry held its breath Friday to see what, if anything, would come out of what had been the last day scheduled for talks between the two organizations.

Both sides have held formal talks since April 15 on SAG’s contract, which expires June 30. Initially, SAG and the AMPTP had penciled in just two weeks to talk, with AFTRA set to begin its negotiations this past Monday.

But at the urging of the AMPTP, AFTRA leaders agreed to put off their talks by one week, rescheduling their start date to this coming Monday. AFTRA did not immediately comment on the extension.

As of late Friday morning, AFTRA was set to begin negotiations Monday and indicated so in a regular email newsletter to its members indicating talks were starting on the contract, which covers dramas and sitcoms on primetime TV, including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox and cable, including HBO and Showtime.

The extension gives a little glimmer of hope on the negotiations, which seemed to take a turn for the worse on Wednesday when the AMPTP sent its members a six-page missive indicating there was little both sides have agreed upon, especially in the DVD/home video residuals front.
The AMPTP indicated that SAG initially in the talks rejected the new media platform that the DGA, WGA and AFTRA in its Network Code had already signed.

Then last week, SAG said it would accept the new media framework, though it sought some 70 changes to it, on the condition that the AMPTP accept the union’s proposals in traditional media.
The AMPTP rejected the offer, saying it included “doubling the existing DVD formula and huge increase in compensation and benefits” which “would result in enormous cost increases that we are not willing to accept.”

SAG responded stating, “The AMPTP knows we did not state that they had to agree to all of our non-new media proposals.”

SAG’s national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg have been outspoken about their desire to change the 22-year-old DVD/home video residual formula and have stated they won’t follow the path the other unions have taken in taking the issue off the bargaining table in order to move forward in the talks.

With the talks appearing to break down, many in the industry turned their sites to AFTRA, who is likely to hammer out a deal with the AMPTP in less than two weeks.

The union has already successfully negotiated its Network Code, covering daytime TV and reality programs, with the companies, which AFTRA members ratified with a 93% vote this week.

SAG may have been pressured to continue with the talks, considering AFTRA’s date with the AMPTP. It’s expected that if AFTRA negotiates a deal first, it would open the door to the possibility of the performers union taking over many SAG represented shows. The two performers unions share 44,000 members.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

SAG’s week to decide

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild will have to decide this week if they want to make a deal — or keep Hollywood on edge about whether actors will strike this summer.

Both sides have kept a tight lid on news about the negotiations, but it’s understood that minimal progress has been achieved after two weeks of negotiations. Unlike the WGA talks before and during the writers strike, however, the process with SAG has been cordial.

The optimistic view is that SAG will have to start compromising in the next few sessions, since it faces a Friday deadline to reach a deal or face the prospect of rival union AFTRA signing a primetime deal next week that could lead to the guild losing shows to AFTRA. That’s a serious threat given the abysmal relations between the performers unions — which are negotiating separately for the first time in 27 years.

The negative view is that SAG’s leaders may be willing to take that chance in hopes they can pressure the majors into a better deal as the June 30 contract expiration gets closer.

SAG and the majors returned to the bargaining table at noon Monday after taking the weekend off. Previous plans had called for negotiations to continue on Saturday, but SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers noted that last week’s move to extend the time frame for the talks until the end of this week had alleviated the need for the sides to work through the weekend.

Although the guild hasn’t set a strike authorization vote for the 120,000 SAG members yet, the industry continues to fret about a work stoppage. The majors have remained unwilling to commit to starting new feature productions until a SAG deal is in hand — a situation that some in the biz are calling a de facto strike.

After two weeks, the guild’s been unwilling to back down from two of its initial demands — that the companies increase DVD residuals and offer a shorter period of free usage for promotional purposes for streamed content than the 17- and 24-day windows in the DGA and WGA deals. The majors have insisted they won’t give in to either demand.

It’s widely expected AFTRA would be willing to sign a deal that mirrors the terms of the DGA and WGA deals when it sits down with the AMPTP next week. AFTRA leaders — who tend to be much less assertive than SAG’s — incorporated parts of the DGA-WGA deals when they agreed last month to a new pact for AFTRA’s network code, covering most of the union’s shows outside primetime.

SAG’s board and negotiating committee are controlled by the more aggressive side of the guild, based in Hollywood and repping about 60% of its 120,000 members. Though SAG’s stayed silent about the specifics of its proposals, it’s been making the case to members via three briefings sent last week that it needs a much better deal.

The most recent missive, sent Friday, focused on residuals but offered few specifics as to the guild’s proposal.

“Residuals are critical to an actor’s ability to make a living,” SAG said. “As a deferred payment for the use or reuse of an actor’s work, residuals are paid on a time cycle that allows many actors to receive income on a reliable basis. Residuals accounted for 53% of all pensionable principal earnings for middle-class actors under the TV and theatrical contracts in 2007.”

SAG asserted that changes in industry business models — declining volume of repeats on the major networks, vastly increased Web streaming of primetime fare and the proliferation of unscripted programming — have severely cut into the residuals fees paid to working thesps.

“Getting fair residuals formulas in new media, DVDs and other markets is a priority for the guild,” SAG said in its briefing. “Real earnings are on the decline, with average inflation-adjusted residual earnings decreasing 7% over the last five years. This has contributed to a negative annual growth rate in real aggregate earnings to actors over recent years. So, if it feels like you’re making less, it’s because you are.”

SAG noted that the volume of primetime repeats is down 25.1% in the last two TV seasons, resulting in fewer residual payments to actors; total home entertainment consumer spending is projected to top $31 billion in 2012, up from $23.4 billion in 2007; the DVD market is forecast to remain viable for years to come, partly because of projected growth in the Blu-ray segment; and some series are Web streaming all episodes produced via ad-supported formats.

SAG said it’s asking for “reasonable” residuals for DVD and homevideo, for content made for new media and for traditional film and TV content that is made available via paid downloads, Web streaming and other new-media platforms. It’s also seeking a formula for the burgeoning world of made-for-new-media programs released in traditional media — as NBC experimented with earlier this year in picking up the Marshall Herskovitz-Ed Zwick Web serial “Quarterlife.”

In all, SAG said it was seeking a “sustainable residuals structure that ensures working actors can maintain a middle class income and represents an appropriate share of the value contributed by actors.”

The AMPTP’s only disclosure came last week when it said that there were “significant gaps” between the two sides — with the caveat that it had sought and received approval from AFTRA to extend the SAG talks for another week in hopes of giving the guild the opportunity to make a deal.

SAG has cancelled membership meetings in Hollywood and New York that had been set for Tuesday and Wednesday to update members about the negotiations.

Source: Variety

Majors kick off talks with IATSE

With SAG waiting in the wings to start its contract talks, the majors will begin three days of negotiations today with the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees.

The below-the-line union is expected to emerge Wednesday with a new contract — even though its current deal doesn’t expire for another 16 months.

By contrast, with SAG’s feature-primetime deal expiring June 30, the town continues to worry about actors going on strike, despite proclamations by guild leaders that they don’t want a work stoppage. The guild agreed last week to start its talks April 15 after AFTRA decided to bust up the 27-year bargaining partnership; AFTRA’s talks on primetime will begin April 28.

Neither IATSE nor the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers would comment on the IATSE negotiations, first disclosed a month ago.

But it would be a surprise if the talks don’t lead to a deal, which will cover about 25,000 below-the-line employees in 18 West Coast locals. IATSE topper Thomas Short has indicated to associates he’ll come in with a focused proposal.

When SAG talks do get under way, the majors will be able to tout having reached agreements with the town’s other unions this year — first the DGA, then the WGA, the AFTRA network code and finally IATSE.

As with the DGA, IATSE leaders have opted for early negotiations in the belief that employers will agree to the most favorable terms in exchange for labor stability. Additionally, by negotiating now, IATSE will be able to incorporate gains in new media into its contract to help continue funding its health and pension plan.

IATSE is a little over halfway through its current contract, which expires in August 2009. It announced a strategic alliance with AFTRA in mid-2007 that was touted as a way to share information and resources.

SAG has only two weeks before AFTRA has its turn at the negotiating table — placing major pressure on SAG to make a deal first or face the consequence of AFTRA expanding its TV jurisdiction by signing new TV deals. SAG leaders have indicated they want a better deal than the DGA and WGA, particularly in DVD residuals and new media, while the majors have indicated those positions are non-starters.

SAG president Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen met informally last week with News Corp. president Peter Chernin and Disney CEO Robert Iger to lay the groundwork for the April 15 start of bargaining at AMPTP headquarters.

Source: Variety

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