UTA will defer salaries of high-level agents and executives earning six figures or more — repeating a move it made when a Hollywood strike loomed six years ago.
Those employees will defer 20% of their paychecks, beginning on Nov. 1, if the Writers Guild goes on strike or studios institute a lockout in November.
If there’s no strike next month, the deferral will be imposed by year’s end in preparation for a possible summer strike, when DGA and SAG contracts expire. The agency confirmed the move and said the money will be returned if there is no long strike.
The percentery rumor mill has been running on overdrive this week, with talk of layoffs, short year-end bonus checks and scrapped holiday parties. UTA was the only agency that acknowledged a plan to deal with the inevitable commission slowdown that would accompany a strike. The other major agencies, from CAA, ICM, WMA to Endeavor, would say only that expense accounts will be curtailed.
This reticence may be attributable to the fact that bloggers and tracking boards often give every layoff or cutback more weight than is deserved.
A UTA insider said that pinching the paychecks of its heavy hitters should keep low-level employees from being laid off if the agency must weather a long strike.
“This is a precautionary move to keep the team together for as long as we can,” said the insider.
Move was formulated before the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on Tuesday backed away from a proposal to roll back residuals.
Writers’ agents say studios have almost completely stopped paying scribes after the WGA issued strike authorization ballots and a rigid list of strike rules to members. Agents are also noting with alarm that writers have been conferring recently with WGA strike captains.
While dealmakers have begun to feel the commission spigot closing, the agencies say they should have enough commissions from other businesses to sustain them.