Opposition surfaces to SAG pact

Focus centered on air travel, motion-capture work

Opposition has started emerging to the tentative deal signed by Hollywood’s performers unions, centering on the elimination of first-class air travel and the failure to include motion-capture work in the pact.

“Since 1947 first class travel was guaranteed for all principal performers,” a widely distributed “Rollbacks” email began. “As of July 1, 2011, all domestic flights 1,000 miles or less will be rolled back to coach. All domestic flights 1,000 miles or more and international flights will be rolled back to business.”

The unsigned letter also asserted that the pact contains a dozen other shortcomings, noting that the Screen Actors Guild achieved “no guarantee” that actors in motion capture work (such as in “Avatar”) will receive union coverage.

SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists began mailing ratification ballots Friday for the successor deal to their three-year master contract for film and primetime TV. Deadline for return of the ballots is Jan. 14; if approved, the new deal will go into effect July 1.

The cover letter with the ballot touts the new contract as having achieved the priority goal of the wages and working conditions committees and the negotiating committee — a “significant” increase in the employer contributions to the health and pension plans, boosting the current rate from 15% to 16.5% and representing “the largest hike in the past 20 years.”

But the opposing letter noted pilots and the first two seasons of one-hour TV series produced on or after July 1 will be held at 15% and added that the pilots and first two seasons of all one-hour series produced prior to July 1 will hold contributions at 13.5%.

The tentative deal, reached with the congloms Nov. 7, includes 2% annual increases in minimum wages and a “major role” minimum to series made for pay television for the first time. The joint board of SAG and AFTRA voted Dec. 4 to OK the deal with 89% in favor.

The materials sent to members do not include a so-called minority report, which would have contained arguments against the contract. Anne-Marie Johnson, a leader of the Membership First faction, told Daily Variety on Tuesday that she was voting against the deal, adding that she wasn’t speaking on behalf of the unions of the negotiating committees and reiterated her statement earlier this year that members should not expect much from the current leaders.

“What the leadership of both unions should have shared with the members was the fact that these negotiations were really about securing labor peace, not strengthening the contracts,” she added.

Each union will have to approve the deal for it to go into effect. SAG has 120,000 members and AFTRA has 70,000, including broadcasters and musicians; about 45,000 thesps are dual members.

In recent elections SAG’s membership has shown a strong preference for the self-styled moderate leadership as opposed to the self-styled progressive wing that controlled the national board from 2005 to 2008.

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