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

Photo of Jacob Combs By Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood July 7, 2014 at 11:20AM

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.
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David White, SAG-AFTRA's national executive director and chief negotiator.
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.


This article is related to: News, Screen Actors Guild


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.