Unions demand 20% increase

Negotiations between the advertising industry and actors unions SAG and AFTRA opened Monday with a three-hour meeting over pay rates for television and radio commercials.

Twenty-six performers — 13 from the Screen Actors Guild and 13 from the American Federation of Television & Radio Actors — attended the opening session of the talks at the Sheraton Towers in New York City. Union representatives made part of their initial presentation during the meeting and were scheduled to continue today.

Negotiators for the advertisers, represented by the Joint Policy Committee of the Assn. of National Advertisers and the Assn. of National Advertisers, will make their initial presentation once the unions have completed theirs.

Both sides’ proposals became public three weeks ago through their Web sites. The unions’ key demands include a 20% hike in residuals for broadcast network ads along with increases in spots shown on cable and on overseas and Spanish-language networks. Advertisers are seeking an upfront 13-week buyout for a flat fee that allows unlimited use of a spot on broadcast networks.

The current three-year contract expires March 31 and the current round of negotiations is scheduled to run through Feb. 25 before breaking for two weeks. At that point, union members will be asked in a mail referendum to authorize the joint SAG/AFTRA boards to call a strike if deemed necessary.

SAG members received $602 million for their work in commercials in 1998. SAG’s leadership has promised to take a more aggressive bargaining stance than in previous negotiations.

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