SAG-AFTRA has told 160,000 members that its staff is working with employers to determine the specifics of how television actors are going to be paid — if at all — during the production shutdown caused by the cononavirus pandemic.
The union posted a message late Thursday on its website as a “COVID-19 Update” — admitting that they talks have with employers have covered the “force majeure” clauses in its master contracts, which excuse performance of employer obligations when circumstances arise beyond the companies’ control.
The update said employers have taken different approaches to those obligations but was unspecific as to what those approaches are.
“Dear Members: We understand that many of you have been affected by the shutdown, postponement or interruption of theatrical, television and new media productions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the message began.
“The issues surrounding production shutdowns related to COVID-19, including the applicability of Force Majeure language from our collective bargaining agreements, are specific and situational,” SAG AFTRA said. “Employers have made different decisions from among the possible options of how to proceed. We are working directly with these employers to find arrangements that work to the benefit of our members and prioritize protecting their income during this period.”
The issue has arisen in the wake of companies telling actors that the production shutdowns amounted to an unpaid “hiatus” covered by force majeure clauses in the SAG-AFTRA contracts. Netflix and HBO are believed to have paid series regulars as part of shutting its series down.
SAG-AFTRA television contracts contain language that differs among scripted shows in primetime and streaming of cable shows, soap operas and unscripted reality TV shows.