With no fanfare, SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have set a mid-February start for negotiations for a successor deal to the union’s master contract, Variety has learned.
The current three-year deal — which covers about $1 billion in annual earnings — expires on March 31. SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the ad industry plan to hold the negotiations in New York City.
Reps for the union did not respond to a request for comment and the ad industry’s lead negotiator Stacy K. Marcus of the firm Reed Smith said, “The JPC and SAG-AFTRA have agreed to a media blackout.”
The Joint Policy Committee recommended in October — as it has in the past — that ad agencies and advertisers plan for a possible strike by re-scheduling production planned for April through June to a date prior to March 31.
“The industry remains optimistic that we will have a successful conclusion to these negotiations without disruption,” the committee said.
SAG-AFTRA has been ramping activity on the commercials front, where it faces the challenge of advertisers using non-union actors. It’s held half a dozen demonstrations during the past two weeks and brought on Bryan Cranston in a video backing its “Ads Go Union” campaign to persuade advertisers to stop using non-union actors. It’s set a demonstration for Dec. 17 in New York at the headquarters of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which SAG-AFTRA struck in September.
The union instructed its 160,000 members on Sept. 20 not to accept any work for BHH, which has been signed to SAG-AFTRA’s commercials contracts since 1999. The strike came two weeks after BBH publicly announced that it had withdrawn from the contract, asserting that the agreement is outdated and accusing the union of being inflexible. The agency, which has produced commercials for Audi, Absolut, Ikea, Samsung, and Virgin Media, has said it does not expect the strike to have any noticeable impact on its company.
The strike came as SAG-AFTRA launched its official process to hammer out a contract proposal for its upcoming negotiations on the commercials contract by holding a series of “wages and working conditions” meetings for members. The current deal was ratified in May, 2016, with more than 92% of members supporting the new deal. Union leaders asserted the deal included “more than $200 million” in pay hikes for members.
SAG and AFTRA struck for six months in 2000 against the ad industry in a bitter work stoppage that featured hundreds of demonstrations. The unions merged in 2012.