Posts Tagged ‘strike


AFTRA, majors agree on deal, Pact must be ratified by members

Posted: Wed., May 28, 2008, 6:43am PT

By DAVE MCNARYThe majors and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have signed a primetime deal that will ease — but not eliminate — the town’s fears of an actors strike.
Following nine consecutive days of negotiations, AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers reached a tentative three-year agreement early Wednesday at AMPTP headquarters in Encino.The new pact must be approved by AFTRA’s national board and ratified by its members. It covers about a dozen shows including “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Flight of the Conchords,” “Dante’s Cove,” “Til Death” and “Reaper” plus new sitcoms “Project Gary,” “Harper’s Island” and “Roman’s Empire.”
The deal includes new media provisions similar to those in the DGA and WGA deals covering programs streamed over the web and downloads of TV shows along with setting the same thresholds for coverage of made-for-the-internet programs. As with the director and writer deals, the AFTRA pact did not include any gains in DVD residuals.

And AFTRA also said the pact retains actors’ consent over online use of clips, an issue that had emerged as a dominant concern at the negotiations. Both SAG and AFTRA had opposed the AMPTP’s proposal that actors agree to drop the consent requirement for online clips; the companies had contended that the change was essential in order to establish a viable business model that could compete with the massive levels of pirated clips on the web.

AFTRA said the pact calls for it and the companies to “develop a mechanism” by which performers can provide or withhold consent for non-promotional use of clips from TV libraries. For programs produced after July 1, companies can bargain for consent for the right to use clips at the time of original employment.

“This is another groundbreaking agreement for AFTRA,” said AFTRA national president Roberta Reardon in a statement. “In addition to achieving meaningful gains in compensation and working conditions for performers, it also establishes AFTRA jurisdiction in the dynamic area of new media and it preserves performers’ consent for use of excerpts of traditional TV shows in new media.

“This is a challenging time in the entertainment industry and this was a tough negotiation,” she said. “Our ability to achieve these crucial breakthroughs for performers was a direct result of AFTRA members’ pragmatic approach to collective bargaining. We recognized the hard realities currently affecting the traditional TV business and we focused on creating a framework that would allow union members to participate fully in the emerging new media marketplace.”

The AFTRA deal came with the Screen Actors Guild set to resume negotiations this morning after a three-week recess for the AFTRA talks. SAG’s feature-primetime contract expires June 30 and the lack of resolution of the guild’s deal had unnerved Hollywood with studios refusing to greenlight features until a new contract’s signed.

In a reflection of the poor relations between SAG and AFTRA, guild president Alan Rosenberg issued a muted reaction to the deal Wednesday morning.

“The Screen Actors Guild negotiating committee and staff will thoroughly analyze and evaluate the principles of a tentative AFTRA deal with the AMPTP,” he said. “We look forward to receiving an update from AFTRA staff regarding the negotiations as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing more during a face-to-face briefing with AFTRA’s negotiating committee as soon as AFTRA provides the opportunity.”

He noted that SAG’s talks with the AMPTP would launch at 10 a.m. as planned and added, “We remain committed to negotiating the best possible terms for actors for all motion pictures and the vast majority of television programs, pay TV and new media formats.”

SAG negotiated with the majors for three weeks but the AMPTP recessed the talks on May 6 over the guild’s objections. SAG insisted that it was near a deal at that point but it’s subsequently revealed that major gaps remain on half a dozen issues.

Most notably, the AFTRA deal sets a template for SAG to follow, much as the DGA deal in January set the parameters for the WGA agreement earlier this year. AFTRA’s been operating in previously unknown territory by negotiating the primetime deal on its own for the first time in three decades following a bitter break-up with SAG.

But it’s uncertain whether SAG will follow the terms of the new AFTRA pact, given the deeply troubled relationship between the performers unions. AFTRA split from joint negotiations in late March following a bitter jurisdictional dispute over “The Bold and the Beautiful,” while SAG’s repeatedly accused AFTRA of signing cable deals at lower initial terms.

AFTRA also spurned SAG’s two-pronged request May 6 to either step aside for a third time or go back to joint bargaining.

Much of the AFTRA and SAG negotiations have been devoted to a single issue — the companies’ proposal that actors agree to drop the consent requirement for online clips — and momentum has stalled on small details in recent sessions.

Many labor observers had expected the AFTRA talks, which launched May 7, to wrap before this week. But AFTRA took a tough stance on the clips issue — mirroring SAG’s position.

Rosenberg sent a message to members late Tuesday, reiterating that gaps remain on key issues including clip consent, DVD residuals, product integration, force majeure and jurisdiction over low-budget projects for the web. And in a sign of ongoing bad blood, he complained that SAG observers had only been allowed to attend six of AFTRA’s negotiating sessions with the AMPTP — none over the past week.

SAG leaders have insisted they don’t want to strike and have not asked members for strike authorization. Such a move would require 75% support among those casting ballots.

AFTRA also said its new deal improves minimums by 3.5% in the first year, 3% in the second and 3.5% in the third. Its also boosts employer contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement plan by 0.5% to 15%.

The pact also increases the number of covered background actors in Los Angeles; secures rest provisions for background performers in Los Angeles; and improves terms and conditions for performers who work under the CW contract.

“We appreciate the support we received from the Hollywood labor community, and we wish our brothers and sisters in the Screen Actors Guild the very best as they resume their own contract talks,” Reardon said.

AFTRA said details of the new agreement will be submitted to the AFTRA National Board at meetings scheduled for June 6-7 in Los Angeles. If approved by that panel, the pact will be submitted to AFTRA’s membership for ratification.

The AMPTP issued a statement noting that the new deal’s the fourth it’s negotiated this year following the DGA and WGA pacts along with AFTRA’s network code agreement, which covers non-primetime.

Both AMPTP and AFTRA were challenged during these talks to find a way to fairly and sensibly tailor our industry’s new media framework to meet the needs of actors,” the org said. “As a result of compromise and creativity by both parties, we reached an agreement that makes the new media framework work for all actors.”

The AMPTP’s statement also took a hopeful tone about the SAG talks, saying, “We now look forward to the resumption of talks with SAG, to building on the foundation laid during our first round of SAG talks, and to reaching an agreement that will prevent another harmful and unnecessary strike.”






Hollywood braces for threat of actors strike

Article by Steve Gorman 3/4/08
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The final epilogue to the tumultuous writers strike has been written, but Hollywood is bracing for a possible a sequel to the costly walkout — this one starring film and television actors.

While the TV industry has rushed to bring derailed shows back on the air since screenwriters returned to work three weeks ago, the threat of renewed labor unrest by actors in the months ahead has put movie studios in a tenuous situation.


Filmmakers are reluctant to launch any production that cannot be completed before the expiration of the Screen Actors Guild’s major film and TV contract on June 30 — a date being treated as the union’s de facto strike deadline.

Assuming a typical 60-day movie shoot, plus extra time for days off, possible overruns and re-shoots that might be necessary, that means few if any big-studio movies will start filming after the end of this month, industry experts say.

“The studios for the most part are not greenlighting any movies that would have to be in production after that (June 30) deadline,” said an insider at one leading talent agency who was not authorized to speak publicly about client issues.

Labor jitters have even prompted Hollywood’s leading insurance carrier, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co, to offer a first-of-its-kind “strike expense” policy for studios.

The policy covers the costs of a strike-related production shutdown in the event that an actor’s illness, equipment damage or other unexpected loss pushes the shooting schedule of a movie past SAG’s June 30 contract deadline.

To qualify, a film must be scheduled to finish shooting by June 15 and already be covered by a so-called completion bond, which insures a movie’s financial backers against the cost of failing to finish a picture on time and on budget.


Nerves are still raw from a 14-week strike by 10,500 writers that shut down much of the television industry and derailed numerous film projects, idling thousands of production workers and costing the local economy some $3 billion.

The walkout ended February 12 after the two sides reached agreement on a deal giving writers more money for work distributed over the Internet. The contract was formally ratified by the Writers Guild of America membership last week.

The Screen Actors Guild shares many of the same contract demands. But SAG also faces issues unique to its 120,000 members, such as forced commercial endorsements through product placement in TV shows and movies.

Many in Hollywood believe strike fatigue is running too high for another work stoppage to materialize. But with tens of millions of dollars at stake when a film production is disrupted, movie studios are playing it safe. Some of the industry’s biggest names are caught up in the uncertainty.

Steven Spielberg has called off the April start to a DreamWorks film about the trial of the 1968 anti-war activists, the Chicago Seven, according to Daily Variety newspaper

Michael Bay, director of the 2007 summer action blockbuster “Transformers,” is keeping his fingers crossed as he and DreamWorks stick to an early June start date for a sequel to the movie.

“If there is a strike, we shut down. But shutting down isn’t that big a deal,” Bay told Variety, explaining that he hoped to mitigate the cost of a potential disruption by working out special deals in advance with equipment vendors and sound stages where he would shoot.

Independent producers who rely on third-party financing lack such flexibility because investors require completion bonds, which insurance companies are hesitant to issue for any film that cannot be finished by June 15.

“There were a number of projects that we had to surrender on and admit there was just no way to meet the bond deadline,” producer Paul Schiff, whose credits include “Rushmore” and “Date Movie,” told the Los Angeles Times.


Meanwhile, SAG leaders have come under mounting pressure to open contract talks with the major studios as soon as possible, leading to tensions between the guild and its sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

SAG President Alan Rosenberg, who campaigned on a promise to take an aggressive stance at the bargaining table, has insisted the guild will not be ready to begin official talks before early April.

Some leaders of AFTRA and SAG’s New York wing have agitated for talks to begin sooner, as have several high-profile actors, including George Clooney and Tom Hanks, who met with Rosenberg over dinner last month. They and other stars also took out full-page ads in Hollywood trade papers calling for immediate negotiations.

And over 1,000 SAG members recently presented Rosenberg with a petition urging the union to limit any voting on a new contract or strike authorization to those members who have worked a specified number of days during the past six years.

Rosenberg said he opposes the idea but would take it to SAG’s governing board at its next meeting in April.

Rosenberg and SAG executive director Doug Allen recently suggested that informal talks like those that led to contracts with the WGA and the Directors Guild of America, were already under way. “We will certainly continue to meet with the CEOs of the major networks and studios as we prepare for formal negotiations,” they wrote in a February 28 memo to members.