National board for meets for second time since merger

Leaders of SAG-AFTRA will begin the official process of formulating proposals for its commercials contract — which covers about $1 billion in annual work and expires March 31 — in three weeks.

In the second-ever meeting, the SAG-AFTRA national board approved on Saturday a schedule for prepping its negotiating proposal, starting with ”educational meetings” to be held in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago beginning Aug. 7. Formal ”wages and working conditions” meetings — during which members submit proposals — will be scheduled to begin after Sept. 10.

That start date for ”W and W” meetings is two months later than had been announced previously. And the start date of formal negotiations for a successor agreement to the commercials contracts, which has been in place since 2009, has not yet been set.

The unions and the ad industry are in the final eight months of a one-year extension to the three-year deal reached in 2009. SAG and AFTRA sought and received the extension last summer in order to focus their efforts on merging the unions. The merger was approved by union members on March 30.

Key gains in the current commercials contract included a payment structure for work made for and moved over to the Internet and other new-media platforms and maintaining the method of pay-per-play payment for ads run on network (also known as the ”Class A” payment structure). The contract also calls for the unions and producers to commission a two-year pilot study by a consultant to test a revamp of compensation based on ratings rather than the current pay-per-play model.

SAG-AFTRA also announced Saturday that it won’t be starting commercial negotiations in October, as it had planned previously. It noted that the national board unanimously approved an agreement with negotiators for the ad industry to pursue a project to address some the ”data challenges” from the test of the revamped compensation model, also known as the Gross Ratings Point Pilot Project.

As a result, SAG-AFTRA said, the agreement resulted in the mutually agreed upon cancellation of an October early bargaining period that would have covered the project. Because of that cancellation, the schedule for preparation of proposals was pushed back, the union said.

The national board also unanimously approved the first industry-wide music video agreement negotiated with representatives of the major record labels including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, EMI Music and The Walt Disney Co. and most of their subsidiary labels.

The contract takes effect on Monday.

The national board also unanimously approved terminating the legacy SAG Interactive Media Agreement via 60-day notice to producers who had been using the expired contract and said those producers will be invited to transition to the AFTRA agreement.

Members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists ratified an agreement last year with the vidgame industry covering work through the end of 2014. AFTRA touted the deal as including the industry’s first-ever streaming payment paid to performers in the form of a new cloud gaming fee — an additional one-time payment of 15% of the session fee paid to every principal performer on a vidgame made available on streaming services.

That pact included a 1% hike on minimums effective upon ratification, bringing the fee for a four-hour session to $809 and an additional 2% increase on May 1, 2013. It covers performers who work in interactive media, including personal computer programs, arcade games and interactive computer and video animation.

The Screen Actors Guild also covered videogame voice work, but SAG’s deal expired in 2009 after guild negotiators rejected the same tentative deal that AFTRA approved. AFTRA had covered the lion’s share of unionized voice work for vidgames, but most of the voice work performed is non-union.

SAG-AFTRA co-presidents Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon called the meeting to order in honor of SAG-AFTRA members who have passed away since the last meeting followed by a special moment of silence for the victims of the attack in Aurora, Colo.

Reardon and Howard said, ”We are shocked and shaken by this tragedy and send our thoughts and prayers to the loved ones of those who lost their lives or were injured. Theaters are the heart and soul of our art. It’s where people who love movies gather to share our stories, and in some undefined but meaningful way, spend time with us. That is a strong bond and we honor it.”

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