The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) National Board of Directors met today in a one-day videoconference plenary and approved the tentative agreement reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on June 11.
Formal negotiations between the 29-member SAG-AFTRA Negotiating Committee and the AMPTP began on Monday, April 27, 2020 via videoconference and concluded on June 11, 2020. The talks were preceded by Wages and Working Conditions meetings held last year.
With the board’s approval, the deal covering motion picture, television and new media production now goes to the union’s membership for ratification.
The board approved the tentative agreement by a super majority of 67.61% to 32.39% and recommended a vote of “yes” to ratify the contracts.
SAG-AFTRA President and Negotiating Committee Chair Gabrielle Carteris said, “I am thankful to the board for its approval and recommendation of this agreement. This deal represents the needs and interests of our members as they shared them with us during our national Wages and Working Condition meetings held across the country. First and foremost, we achieved a 26% increase in streaming residuals. “
She adds, “In addition, a terrific wage package and an outsized increase in SAG-AFTRA Health Plan contributions. I am confident that this future-focused agreement is the strong foundation we need to evolve with the significant changes in our industry and our employers’ business models.”
SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator David White said, “I am grateful to our Negotiating Committee and staff for their tireless and exceptional work on these once-in-a-generation negotiations. In voting to recommend approval of this forward-thinking agreement to our members the board is helping to usher in a new era for how our members work and earn a living. We achieved unprecedented increases in residuals in the fastest-growing category, we secured ground-breaking protections for members in the areas of nudity, simulated sex and sexual harassment, and we strengthened our benefit plans.”
Eligible SAG-AFTRA members will vote on the proposed successor agreements covering motion pictures, scripted television and new media production. The total package, valued at $318 million over three years, is the most lucrative deal the union has ever achieved.
The future-focused agreement reflects evolving business models and includes transformative gains to wages and benefits that preserve and enhance members’ ability to earn a living now and into the future.
The union achieved a 26% increase in fixed streaming residuals over the first three years of availability for high-budget programs on subscription-based streaming platforms, including increases to the ceilings that cap the amount of performer compensation included in residual calculation.
There are also improvements to how foreign streaming residuals are calculated. Critically, “grandfathering” will be nearly eliminated beginning in year two of the agreement, so that new episodes of existing series will pay under the improved formulas.
The agreement features substantial funding gains that help ensure the strength and longevity of the SAG-AFTRA benefit plans. The total projected funding increase for the next three years is $97 million and includes $54 million in additional funding of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan.
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The agreement contains historic improvements to protections for performers working in the nude or performing in simulated sex scenes. Highlights include stricter safeguards at auditions and interviews; a 48-hour review period for riders; clarity to the authorized use of digital doubles and digitization; access to discuss the terms of the rider; improved stringent rules during production, including closed set definitions, prohibition of recording with personal devices, improved on-set communication, and access to a “cover up, such as a bathrobe;” and additional security and written consent requirements around nude photography.
Many of these improvements apply to both principal and background actors.
Additional gains include improvements to how overtime is calculated for stunt performers employed by the week on episodic series under schedule H-II; an additional covered background position for West Coast episodic production commencing in year two, resulting in an additional 2,100 background jobs per year under historical employment patterns and increases to money and schedule breaks.
Changes to provisions pertaining to broadcast syndication are consistent with the industry pattern for this declining business. For new licenses, the fixed residual has been replaced with a revenue-based residual, however those programs that are currently syndicated under an existing license will continue to pay residuals under the current fixed residual formula through both the duration of the license and any extensions.
Importantly, the union achieved protections that eliminate the advance payment of residuals for future syndication for performer contracts entered into on or after July 1, 2020.
In keeping with the National Board’s prior policy resolution, the national referendum for the TV/Theatrical agreements will be conducted via an online vote to ratify the contracts. Traditional paper ballots will also be available on request to any eligible voter who asks for such a ballot. Members who are eligible to vote (under existing policies) will receive a postcard with ballot instructions explaining how to vote electronically or how to request a paper ballot.
The postcard will be mailed to members on or about July 1. Ratification votes received by the voting deadline of 5 p.m. PDT July 22 (electronically or by mail) will be tabulated on the same day. Informational meetings for members across the country to discuss the tentative agreement are scheduled beginning the week of July 6. Information about the agreement will also be posted online prior to the balloting period.
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The current contracts remain in effect during the member ratification process. The term of the new agreement is for three years effective July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2023, and is retroactive upon ratification.