Friday, May 22, 2009

AFTRA Approves New Commercial Contract/ SAG Members Mixed On New Feature Deal

AFTRA Approves New Commercial Contract


Three-year deal ratified by landslide vote

SAG and AFTRA members have given overwhelming approval to a three-year commercials contract with a 93.8% endorsement -- a marked contrast with the current bitter battle within SAG over the feature-primetime contract.

The ratification, announced Thursday afternoon, came seven weeks after the unions reached a tentative deal with the ad industry. Since then, no significant opposition to the deal, which covers about $1 billion of blurb work annually, had emerged.

"I think this is a win-win for everyone," said AFTRA president Roberta Reardon. "It's no secret that the ad industry's been under attack for the past six months, so getting this deal done is very helpful to everyone."

About 132,000 members of the unions received ballots with a 28% return. The endorsement was above typical levels while the participation was in line with previous ratification votes.

The unions estimated Thursday that the new deal, retroactive to April 1, will generate more than $108 million in increased earnings, including $24 million in increased contributions to the unions' health and pension funds. They also touted the pact's inclusion of the first-ever payment structure for ads for the Internet and new media, which goes into effect in the third year.

The deal also preserves the current pay-per-play class A residuals structure while providing for a pilot study on a compenasation model based on ratings.

"I am pleased that SAG and AFTRA were able to work together to reach an agreement that will benefit actors who work in the advertising industry," said SAG president Alan Rosenberg, who's been battling the ratification of SAG's feature-primetime deal.

The easy ratification of the commercials deal comes nine years after the unions started a bitter six-month strike against the ad biz. The threat of another SAG-AFTRA strike against the ad industry emerged in mid-March with the leak of a draft letter seeking a strike authorization vote from members, but that letter was never sent out to the members.

The tough economic times plus a shift in control of SAG's national board to a more moderate faction last fall provided strong signals that a strike wasn't in the offing in 2009.
The ad biz managed to hold down annual salary gains to about 2%, or 5.1% for the life of the pact, significantly below the 3% and 3.5% gains in Hollywood union contracts last year, and it won a first-ever cap on employer contributions to pension and health.

"It's a great contract that gives every actor who does commercials a healthy raise and sets vital minimums for internet and new media ads," said Sue-Anne Morrow, who chaired SAG's portion of the joint negotiating committee. "It's also a fantastic example of what can be achieved when SAG and AFTRA work together for the good of performers. The members' overwhelmingly positive response is a clear indication that they appreciate the results of that solidarity."

SAG Members Divided Over New Features Deal


The deep divides within the Screen Actors Guild came into sharp focus Thursday evening as 600 thesps attended a raucous town hall meeting over the contentious ratification vote on the feature-primetime deal.

The members-only meeting at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel featured opponents of the deal giving a standing ovation for president Alan Rosenberg and booing interim national exec director David White. At one point, former SAG president Ed Asner invoked the Holocaust to describe the impact of the tentative deal, prompting a member to sharply criticize him for making the comparison.

"There were plenty of strong expressions of feelings about this from both sides," said Ned Vaughn, a leader of the Unite For Strength faction that backs the deal. "The room was pretty divided."

Ballots were sent out Tuesday to about 110,000 SAG members with a June 9 return date. Hardliners, who are concentrated in Hollywood, are opposing the deal -- largely over the rates in its new-media provisions and SAG not receiving guaranteed jurisdiction for new-media work. The three-hour event started with a presentation by White but most of the evening was taken up by questions and answers.

Scott Wilson, who's been among the most active opponents of the deal, was critical in his speech of the moderates have insisted the two-year deal will help get members back to work by removing uncertainty. He accused the current board majority - a coalition from New York, the regional branches and Unite For Strenght in Hollywood -- of defying the will of members in Hollywood, noting that those members perform the majority of the work.

"What would the founders of this union think of members agreeing to work non-union?" he told the crowd. "If this goes through, thousands of members will lose their health coverage and that pisses me off."

Vaughn said deal supporters asked Rosenberg repeatedly to explain how voting the deal will lead to a better agreement when the congloms have said repeatedly they won't sweeten the terms. Rosenberg replied by saying that if that occurs, SAG will have to ask members for a strike authorization - which would require 75% support from those voting.

"I think a lot of members don't believe that voting no is going to get us a better deal," Vaughn said.

Former SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert, who supports the deal, attended the meeting along with husband Bruce Boxleitner but did not speak. Others in attendance included Patricia Heaton, board members Clancy Brown, Gabrielle Carteris, Frances Fisher and France Nuyen.

James McCauley, a member opposing the deal, said that most of the members attending were in agreement with the "No for Your Future" flyer he was distributing. "I'm finding that people have a pretty good understanding of these issues and a lot of them have already voted," he added.

SAG's national board approved trhe deal on April 19 with 53% in favor. SAG's TV-film contract expired last June 30.

1 comment:

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