SAG Members Ratify Movie/TV Contract

Ending a year of talks and months of bickering among various factions of actors, members of the Screen Actors Guild overwhelmingly approved a new two-year contract for performers in motion picture and television productions, the union announced Tuesday.

SAG officials said 78 percent of the union's membership voted in favor of the contract, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and remain in effect until June 30, 2011.

"This decisive vote gets our members back to work with immediate pay raises and puts SAG in a strong position for the future," said David White, SAG's interim national executive director.
 "Preparation for the next round of negotiations begins now. Our members can expect more positive changes in the coming months as we organize new work opportunities, repair and reinvigorate our relationships with our sister unions and industry partners and continue to improve the guild's operations."
 The SAG Board of Directors voted in April by a thin 53 percent to 47 percent margin to recommend approval of the deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major film and TV studios.
"The ratification vote by SAG members is good news for the entertainment industry," according to a statement by the AMPTP. "This concludes a two-year negotiating process that has resulting in agreements with all major Hollywood guilds and unions.
"We look forward to working with SAG members -- and with everyone else in our industry -- to emerge from today's significant economic challenges with a strong and growing business."
The agreement provides for a 3.5 percent annual increase, including a 3 percent wage increase and a 0.5 percent pension and health contribution increase upon ratification, plus a 3.5 percent wage increase in the second year of the contract.
Despite the board's recommendation that the deal be approved, SAG President Alan Rosenberg opposed the contract, saying it fails to provide adequate compensation for actors for movies and television shows that appear on the Internet.
Rosenberg said today he still disagrees with the terms of the agreement but hopes to work for improvements in the future.
   "The membership has spoken and has decided to work under the terms of this contract that many of us who have been involved in these negotiations from the beginning believe to be devastatingly unsatisfactory," Rosenberg said.
"Tomorrow morning I will be contacting the elected leadership of the other talent unions with the hope of beginning a series of pre-negotiation summit meetings in preparation for 2011. I call upon all SAG members to begin to ready themselves for the battle ahead."
SAG officials said the proposed contract includes a new media structure similar to those accepted by other industry unions, resulting in gains for actors, including:
   -- union jurisdiction on all derivative, made-for new media productions;
   -- automatic jurisdiction on all high-budget, original made-for-new media productions;
   -- jurisdiction on low-budget original new media productions that employ at least one union-covered performer;
   -- residuals for exhibition of TV and theatrical motion pictures on consumer pay platforms at a greater percentage than those paid for DVD distribution;
   -- residuals for ad-supported streaming of feature films and television programs; and
   -- residuals for derivative new media programs.
Bargaining for a successor agreement to the 2005 SAG TV/Theatrical Contract began on April 15, 2008. While SAG continued wrangling with producers, its sister union -- the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists -- approved a new contract.
In the end, SAG negotiators ended up accepting a deal modeled on those negotiated by other talent unions, including the Writers Guild of America, which forged a pact amid a 100-day strike.
One key sticking point in SAG negotiations was the duration of the contract. SAG wanted a new contract to run through June 2011 so the union could line up its next round of negotiations with the expiring contracts of other Hollywood talent unions.  
The studios, which wanted a three-year contract to push SAG's contract expiration into 2012, eventually agreed to a two-year term. Because the contract is not retroactive to July 1, that means in effect that SAG is giving up a year's worth of pay increases, which the studios have estimated at $65
SAG had been working without a contract since June 30, 2008, and production continued under the terms of the previous agreement.
Emmy-winning actor Tony Shalhoub called the union's ratification of the pact "a great decision for SAG."
"... And I'm so appreciative of everything the new leadership is doing to put the guild back on track," he said. "They've obviously got the right ideas for making SAG stronger."
According to SAG, ballots were sent to 110,000 union members, and 35.26 percent returned them -- a participation rate that the union called "above average."
The vote tally in the Hollywood division was 70.7 percent in favor of the agreement. The New York division membership voted 85.74 percent in favor of the deal.

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