SAG bows to concessions

'Lopez,' 'Centre' allowed to use waiver, AFTRA terms

The Screen Actors Guild has apparently agreed to contract concessions for two major sitcoms for the current season.

Guild execs have approved a waiver allowing its members to take AFTRA terms and conditions on ABC’s “The George Lopez Show” and the WB’s “Off Centre,” according to notifications.

SAG refused to confirm the move, but agencies and casting directors were notified of the switch Monday through Breakdown Services. One memo said: “Please note: As of now, all actors appearing on ‘The George Lopez Show’ will be paid on a SAG (under AFTRA terms) contract. ‘Off-Centre’ is now SAG under AFTRA terms, as of this episode.”

The shift will not affect topline thesps but is expected to impact one key area — the “five and under” performers who speak five lines or less on a show.

Though the SAG and AFTRA contracts match provisions on network primetime shows, AFTRA’s contracts in other areas of TV call for principal actors to be paid more than double the rates for “five and under” actors. SAG’s contract has no “five and under” provision.

SAG made a similar concession several months ago to producers of UPN’s drama “Haunted.” At the time, SAG execs said they granted a waiver to use AFTRA terms and conditions, in order to convince the producers to shoot in Los Angeles rather than Canada.

“George Lopez” and “Off Centre” are shot in Los Angeles. In response to questions as to why SAG has agreed to AFTRA terms and conditions, SAG issued a vague statement that said: “Above all, the unions always ensure that all shows are produced under either collective bargaining agreement. Our objective is to seek the best possible terms and conditions for performers given the circumstances.”

SAG spokeswoman Ilyanne Kichaven would only confirm that negotiations about the shows had taken place but refused to explain SAG’s policy on granting waivers to the minimum basic agreement.

“Off Centre” is a DreamWorks/Warner Bros. production with Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz, Danny Zucker and Warrant Bell as exec producers. The “George Lopez” producers are Bruce Helford, Deborah Oppenheimer, Robert Bordon and Sandra Bullock.

The move comes at a time when SAG has been battling the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists over jurisdictional questions. SAG created an AFTRA relations committee in mid-July, in the wake of a dispute over which union has the right to organize Fox shows shot on digital, but AFTRA responded by refusing to form an equivalent committee until later on.

The actor unions also split in April over the hot-button issue of easing talent agency ownership rules and have not met formally to settle jurisdictional disputes since 1999, when SAG members voted down a merger with AFTRA. And AFTRA leaders have been upset by SAG’s move in July to close many regional branches that were operated jointly.

Both unions agreed in 1999 not to take any action that would undercut the other.

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