Org reaches tentative three-year deal

AFTRA has reached a tentative three-year deal with networks on its network code, which covers work by its members on nonprimetime TV.

Agreement — reached late Saturday in New York — includes wage increases, higher employer contributions on pension and health gains and new-media terms that mirror the provisions in the recent DGA and WGA deals. AFTRA’s negotiating committee endorsed the pact unanimously.

AFTRA’s move opens the door for the performers union to begin negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on coverage of primetime TV. No date has been set, but talks are likely to start in late March or early April.

Although AFTRA has threatened to negotiate a deal on its own, it’s expected SAG leaders will agree this week to joint bargaining under conditions of the two unions’ 27-year-old Phase One agreement (Daily Variety, March 7), though the situation has not been finalized following a long feud. AFTRA has asserted that SAG violated Phase One by instituting block voting on its negotiating committee and accused its leaders of being inflexible; SAG’s accused AFTRA of shilling for producers by signing cable shows to lower initial terms.

The AFTRA deal, which still must be ratified by its national board and members to go into effect, came a day after expiration of the previous contract. AFTRA had extended the expiration twice — first from Nov. 15 and then again from Jan. 31 — so the WGA could reach its deal first.

Current contract covers about $400 million in annual earnings from dramatic programs in syndication or outside primetime. It also includes daytime serial dramas, gameshows, talkshows, variety and musical programs, news, sports, reality shows and promotional announcements.

Negotiations began Feb. 19. Reps from SAG, the WGA, IATSE, AFM and Actors Equity attended portions of the sessions.

The AMPTP noted the contrast with the WGA negotiations, although it didn’t mention the WGA by name. Talks with the writers began last summer and didn’t conclude until Feb. 9 — three days before the end of the WGA’s strike.

“The AMPTP applauds the latest labor agreement between AFTRA and the television networks,” it said. “This agreement shows what can be accomplished when both sides approach the negotiating table in a timely, serious and focused way.”

AFTRA prexy Roberta Reardon called the pact a “major milestone” for AFTRA. “This contract is extraordinary for performers and made significant progress on many fronts, including importantly, new media jurisdiction and compensation,” she added.

AFTRA said other gains include increases in “extra rehearsal” and overtime rates by 25%; retetention of universal coverage for background actors in all formats; raises in minimum call provisions for singers and stand-ins; raising exclusivity thresholds for performers under contract; establishing a day rate for dancers on awards programs; and guaranteed health and retirement coverage for stunt coordinators on serial dramas.

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