SAG, AFTRA pause ad strike plans

Commercials contract talks in fourth week

Madison Avenue still faces the threat of an actors strike against commercial producers, but for now SAG and AFTRA are putting the breaks on their plan to seek a strike authorization vote from members.

The fourth week of joint SAG-AFTRA negotiations in Gotham on a new commercials contract has generated enough movement in the past two days for unions to sheath the strike saber, according to insiders. But if the ad industry digs in its heels on some of its proposals, the the unions could still send out an authorization vote to the 150,000 members of both unions.

Bargaining between the ad industry and the unions has taken place under a news blackout. Neither side had any comment Tuesday.

The ad industry moved last week to deflate the possibility of a SAG-AFTRA commercials strike, with its lead negotiator insisting that progress is being achieved in the wake of reports about a draft letter for a strike authorization having already been written.

Key points at the current talks include the industry’s proposal for a revamp to the way actors are paid for commercials. The ad biz wants to shift to a compensation formula to one based on the ratings garnered by commercials, rather than stick with the traditional pay-per-play method.

Commercials producers also want to reduce by more than $20 million a year their contributions to SAG and AFTRA’s pension and health plans. The initial proposal from advertisers called for thesps to earn about $900 million annually from blurbs, but with the allocation of that coin shifting in response to changes in viewing habits and in the ways in which viewers are exposed to commercial messages.

The bargaining marks a return to SAG and AFTRA engaging in joint negotiations — a year after AFTRA angrily split from SAG over bitter jurisdictional disputes, leading to AFTRA negotiating a separate primetime deal. The unions patched up their relationship fall by signing a non-disparagement agreement with each setting $2 million to pay fines for violations.

Reports from observers indicate that the reps for the two unions have been acting in unity without any disputes.

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