AFTRA has agreed to conduct joint negotiations with SAG for the commercials contract — seven months after AFTRA angrily split off on primetime contract talks.
It’s the first official step toward peaceful relations following a year of bitter battles between the performers unions. AFTRA announced Sunday that its national board had OK’d the agreement Saturday but will hold off on releasing details until SAG’s national board takes a similar step on Oct. 18.
AFTRA prexy Roberta Reardon told Daily Variety that the pact had been hammered out with the help of the AFL-CIO and via a pair of meetings she and AFTRA national exec director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth recently had in New York with SAG national exec director Doug Allen and prexy Alan Rosenberg.
“We’re very appreciative of the work that SAG and the AFL-CIO put into this,” she added. “We’ve wanted to restart this conversation with SAG.”
Move was not a surprise since both unions announced last month a series of joint membership meetings to prep for the commercial talks, starting with an Oct. 7 confab in Gotham. The meetings have been set in order for members to hear the results of a Booz Allen Hamilton study, commissioned by the unions and the ad industry, about the changing revenue models in the ad biz due to the impact of new media.
SAG and AFTRA announced in late August that they had agreed to a six-month extension of their commercials contract until March 31. No date’s been set for negotiations, but it’s highly unlikely that SAG will be ready to begin talks until it resolves the stalemate over its feature-primetime deal.
Move marks a reversal in behavior for SAG and AFTRA leaders, who had feuded so intensely over jurisdiction that AFTRA moved to negotiate its primetime deal with the congloms in March after declaring it could no longer trust SAG toppers. AFTRA negotiated a new three-year primetime contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers in late May, and AFTRA members ratified the primetime deal in July despite an acrimonious campaign by SAG to vote down the deal.
The SAG-AFTRA battle played a central role in the subsequent campaign for SAG board seats, with members voting last month to push the Membership First faction out of power after a three-year run. During the campaign, the Unite for Strength slate hammered Membership First for bungling the feature-primetime negotiations by alienating AFTRA.
Reardon stressed Sunday that the new-media provisions will be crucial in the upcoming negotiations with the ad industry.
“Our entire world of work is in evolution as digital technology becomes the norm in production,” she said. “This has an ever-widening impact on all AFTRA workers, from sound recordings artists who led the way in the digital revolution to radio and TV broadcasters who are watching the face of the industry morph on a daily basis to freelance actors who are watching new platforms develop in webisodes and the spectrum of new media.”
Hedgpeth reported that AFTRA collected $17.3 million in claims for AFTRA members during the fiscal year ended April 30, up from $14 million in fiscal year 2007. The board also received a report that described the condition of the AFTRA pension fund as “solid” despite of the current upheaval in financial markets.