SAF AFRA Ken Howard

SAG-AFTRA has reached a tentative deal with production companies for a three-year master contract covering movie and primetime TV work.

The performers union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached the agreement late Thursday following nearly two months of negotiations — and three 24-hour extensions of the contract expiration.

The two sides made the announcement early Friday morning. There were no details provided other than the disclosures that the new contract will replace the separate SAG and AFTRA contracts which have remained in effect since the 2012 merger. SAG-AFTRA’s board will meet July 12 to vote on whether to send the new deal to members for ratification.

The two sides had announced late Monday night — less than an hour before the union contracts expired at midnight — that they achieved progress in the talks and had agreed to extend the expiration for 24 hours. They made a similar announcement 24 hours later on Tuesday night. And that was followed by a third announcement late Wednesday night.

Both sides had agreed to a news blackout when negotiations launched May 4 at AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks, but initial plans called for concluding the talks on June 13.

SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard (pictured above) chaired the union’s negotiating committee and National Executive Director David White has been SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator. Leaders of the performers’ union — who have been assiduously non-confrontational in recent years — opted to keep a low-profile on the substance of negotiations without any effort to mobilize the members in support of their positions.

The current SAG and AFTRA deals cover about 165,000 members. Those deals were reached before the 2012 merger of the two unions — forcing negotiations to bargain for the past two months over complex issues such as the whether to create a new master contract or continue with the current SAG and AFTRA deals; and how to reconcile the slightly higher AFTRA rates for TV with SAG’s rates.

Earlier this year, chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez had told members during a “wages and working conditions” meeting that problems could arise if the AMPTP refused to go along with SAG-AFTRA’s desire for a single master contract.

Merger backers had asserted repeatedly that the combined union would have more negotiating power than the separate unions would have had. The pro-merger campaigners also claimed that merging would be a first step toward resolving the problem of members contributing to separate SAG and AFTRA health plans and not earning enough to qualify for either.

The SAG-AFTRA negotiations started a month after leaders of the Writers Guild of America reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year master contract, which was easily ratified.

The WGA deal — which went into effect May 1 — contained most of the same gains that were achieved by the Directors Guild of America’s successor deal: a 2.5% wage gain in the first year, followed by 3% annual wage increases in the next two years; a 0.5% increase in the contribution to the pension fund; and higher payments for ad-supported online streaming.

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