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SAG-AFTRA Signs New Contract, Cheers 'Significant' Gains

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by Jacob Combs
July 7, 2014 11:20 AM
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Jim Spellman/WireImage David White, SAG-AFTRA's national executive director and chief negotiator.

Early Friday morning--on the 4th of July, no less--SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood producers represented by the AMPTP announced a landmark new three-year film and TV contract.

Although the specific terms of the new contract were not revealed, reports indicate that the deal will unite the two separate legacy contracts SAG and AFTRA had with production companies--contracts that persisted even though the unions merged two years ago.

The new deal includes a compounded 8.7% hike in minimums over the next three years--2.5% in the first year followed by 3% increases in the following two years.  The gains are based on the old SAG contract, which had a slightly lower rate than AFTRA did.  The new deal also includes an industry-wide agreement for basic cable, and a promise from the AMPTP that it will work to merge the SAG and AFTRA healh plans and will increase its contribution to each plan by 0.5%.

It's a major win for the union, as its public statements about the announcement pointed out.  "Unifying the legacy SAG and AFTRA contracts was essential and I am very pleased that we were able to achieve that," said Ken Howard, SAG-AFTRA's president. "As important, we have established an industry-wide, basic cable agreement – something we have wanted for two decades. We’ve also secured a very competitive wage package for members and a large bump in our pension, health and retirement contributions."

In addition, the SAG Pension and Health Plan, which is legally distinct from the actors' union and from the AFTRA plan, announced that actors who currently don't meet the requirements for SAG and AFTRA health plans can combine their previous earnings under the two contracts in order to qualify for SAG Plan II, the union's lower health plan.  That change went into effect July 1 and applies to earnings in the last twelve months, although the SAG plan will not notify members that they are eligible for the program and it will instead fall on the individual member to apply.

The new actors' contract largely mirrors those recently signed by the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America, which included increased pay rates for streaming products, a shrinking of the free streaming window from 17 days to 7 days and a better formula for calculating residuals.  The WGA deal went into effect May 1; the DGA deal did so July 1.

Negotiations for the new contract began May 4 and were scheduled to conclude on June 13.  Complications surrounding the merger of the two contracts and SAG-AFTRA's desire for an AMPTP pledge to merge the two health plans necessitated the need for three more weeks of talks--including three 24-hour extensions at the last minute.  Leaders of the actors' union made no move towards a strike authorization, and instead stayed low-profile during the negotiations.

The new agreement will be presented on July 12 to the SAG-AFTRA National Board of Directors.


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