SAG, AFTRA digital divide

Allen starts talks over jurisdictional problems

A month after taking over the top exec slot at SAG, Doug Allen has started talking tough with AFTRA over jurisdictional problems.

Allen approached AFTRA leaders recently to convey SAG’s dismay over AFTRA continuing to sign up primetime network series that are shot on digital rather than on film, which would be SAG’s jurisdiction.

AFTRA’s contention has been that if it’s digital, either union can go after the program since that area has never been defined. But that position has rankled SAG leaders, partly because of actor complaints about AFTRA’s pension and health plans having higher qualifications and partly because AFTRA hasn’t pushed with the same vigor to organize non-union cable TV shows that would be under AFTRA jurisdiction.

According to guild insiders, Allen told AFTRA the two unions need to work out a definitive solution to which union covers what, especially since some SAG leaders want to revoke Phase I — the 1981 agreement under which SAG and AFTRA agreed to jointly negotiate contracts under which they had common interests. Under Phase I, AFTRA gets half the negotiating committee seats on the film-TV and commercials contracts, even though its contribution on those contracts is well under 15%.

A motion to end Phase I was included on the agenda of last weekend’s SAG national board meeting agenda, but it was withdrawn after Allen assured the board he was working toward a resolution.

SAG had no comment. AFTRA national exec director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said in response, “It is important to note that jurisdiction over primetime dramatic television programming has been shared between AFTRA and SAG for more than three decades as evidenced by our long history of cooperatively bargaining together with producers. AFTRA believes that since 1981 the Phase 1 agreement has worked to benefit performers and expects to continue the joint Phase 1 structure as it currently exists. I look forward to talking with Mr. Allen on ways we might collaborate to protect and improve the jobs and lives of our members.”

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