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SAG, AFTRA approve ads contract

Three-year deal ratified by landslide vote

SAG and AFTRA members have given overwhelming approval to a three-year commercials contract with a 93.8% endorsement — a marked contrast with the current bitter battle within SAG over the feature-primetime contract.

The ratification, announced Thursday afternoon, came seven weeks after the unions reached a tentative deal with the ad industry. Since then, no significant opposition to the deal, which covers about $1 billion of blurb work annually, had emerged.

“I think this is a win-win for everyone,” said AFTRA president Roberta Reardon. “It’s no secret that the ad industry’s been under attack for the past six months, so getting this deal done is very helpful to everyone.”

About 132,000 members of the unions received ballots with a 28% return. The endorsement was above typical levels while the participation was in line with previous ratification votes.

The unions estimated Thursday that the new deal, retroactive to April 1, will generate more than $108 million in increased earnings, including $24 million in increased contributions to the unions’ health and pension funds. They also touted the pact’s inclusion of the first-ever payment structure for ads for the Internet and new media, which goes into effect in the third year.

The deal also preserves the current pay-per-play class A residuals structure while providing for a pilot study on a compenasation model based on ratings.

“I am pleased that SAG and AFTRA were able to work together to reach an agreement that will benefit actors who work in the advertising industry,” said SAG president Alan Rosenberg, who’s been battling the ratification of SAG’s feature-primetime deal.

The easy ratification of the commercials deal comes nine years after the unions started a bitter six-month strike against the ad biz. The threat of another SAG-AFTRA strike against the ad industry emerged in mid-March with the leak of a draft letter seeking a strike authorization vote from members, but that letter was never sent out to the members.

The tough economic times plus a shift in control of SAG’s national board to a more moderate faction last fall provided strong signals that a strike wasn’t in the offing in 2009.

The ad biz managed to hold down annual salary gains to about 2%, or 5.1% for the life of the pact, significantly below the 3% and 3.5% gains in Hollywood union contracts last year, and it won a first-ever cap on employer contributions to pension and health.

“It’s a great contract that gives every actor who does commercials a healthy raise and sets vital minimums for internet and new media ads,” said Sue-Anne Morrow, who chaired SAG’s portion of the joint negotiating committee. “It’s also a fantastic example of what can be achieved when SAG and AFTRA work together for the good of performers. The members’ overwhelmingly positive response is a clear indication that they appreciate the results of that solidarity.”

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