SAG-AFTRA Launches Contract Negotiations with Producers

SAG-AFTRA has started contract negotiations with Hollywood producers on a successor deal for its master contract,  Variety has learned.

The talks have started with subcommittees holding meetings this week — six weeks before the June 30 expiration of the current three-year deal. Neither the union nor the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has confirmed the talks, but sources have said that the subcommittee meetings will be followed by an exchange of “wish lists” before the end of May. Full-blown negotiations are scheduled to begin in early June.

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris is heading her union’s negotiating committee and SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White is the lead negotiator. AMPTP president Carol Lombardini leads negotiations for the companies.

Negotiations are taking place at AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks, California. Key issues for the union are likely to include employer contributions to shore up the separate SAG and AFTRA pension plans; dealing with options and exclusivity rules due to shortened seasons in TV, also known as the “span” issue; and changes in how performers are compensated for travel.

SAG-AFTRA, which reps about 160,000 performers, began the talks Wednesday — two weeks after the down-to-the-wire negotiations by the Writers Guild of America with the production companies. The writers reached a tentative deal with the AMPTP an hour before the May 2 expiration of the contract, after unnerving the industry with a strike authorization endorsement supported by 96.3% of members who voted.

The WGA achieved significant changes in the compensation structure for short-order TV series, forcing the studios to recognize the financial strain for TV writers as the industry norm has shifted to shows with six-13 episodes per season rather than the broadcast norm of 22-24.

SAG-AFTRA leaders approved a contract proposal for a successor deal with the production companies on Jan. 22, but it did not disclose details of the package. The close-to-the-vest approach is similar to that employed by the Directors Guild of America, which reached a tentative deal in December for a new contract that goes into effect on July 1 and includes a major gain in streaming residuals.

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