Both sides have say

SAG-AFTRA board Oks pact but respects dissent

As expected, the joint board of the SAG and AFTRA voted Saturday to officially approve and recommend to its joint membership a tentative three-year TV/theatrical deal reached Jan. 20 with networks and studios.

With a vote of 71.4% in favor to 28.6% against, the measure passed relatively easily. But in what is clearly an effort to acknowledge the often contentious and fractious nature of the unions’ memberships, the joint board was careful to approve the inclusion of pro and con statements of equal length in the referendum materials.

The move to include a con statement may have been made as much for fairness’ sake as to avoid fighting a pitched battle with SAG’s vocal opposition to this deal.

That opposition has been fueled in part by SAG’s failure to get any increase in the decade’s old homevid residuals model. To wit, last Monday night, SAG’s Hollywood board voted 36-3 against the pact in a non-binding vote. Even SAG-AFTRA’s initial contract negotiations concluded with a substantially divided 17-9 vote by its negotiating committee to endorse a tentative three-year deal — a split that telegraphed potentially significant dissent from within the union’s membership before the unionwide referendum.

Following the joint board vote, SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert and AFTRA prexy John Connolly issued a joint statement calling the proposed $200 million pact with producers “the richest in our unions’ history” and then went on to explain the organizing principle of the negotiations.

Their plan, the duo of toppers said, was “to bargain the best deal possible and keep actors working uninterrupted for another three years.” Gilbert and Connolly said they were “very proud to have accomplished what we set out to do on behalf of working performers.”

Among the elements of the proposed deal:

  • increased wages for every category of performer;

  • a proposal — similar to that reached with writers and directors guilds — to forsake the opportunity to commission residuals on the first two re-airings of a scripted show in order to promote such programs over reality TV;

  • significant expansion of jobs and wages for background actors;

  • protected residuals for WB and UPN actors;

  • increase in residuals for made-for-pay TV programming;

  • higher wages and better safeguards for stunt coordinators;

  • major increases in employer contributions to pension and health plans;

  • continuity of health benefits for series regulars whose shows are canceled;

  • greater protections for dancers, and health and pension coverage for choreographers; and

  • acknowledgement and respect for performers with disabilities.

Ballots will be mailed to members Feb. 7 and must be received at the designated post office box no later than Feb. 28.