Negotiators for a new SAG-AFTRA film and TV contract have wrapped their second week of bargaining with six weeks to go before the current pact expires and no sign of an early deal. This is the first film and TV contract the union has negotiated since SAG and AFTRA merged in 2012, and one of its key goals is to bring their old contracts into alignment. “That’s what everyone has been talking about,” said a SAG-AFTRA official. “We’ve got to combine the contracts.”
Related: SAG-AFTRA Talks: What To Expect
The union actually is negotiating two separate TV contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers – one SAG’s and the other AFTRA’s, whose basic rates are 3.5% higher than SAG’s. “We want to bring the SAG contract up to AFTRA’s,” said the SAG-AFTRA official. “We certainly don’t want to lower AFTRA’s to SAG’s.” And that may just prove to be the toughest sticking point in these negotiations.
Beyond that, most of the heavy lifting for a new actors contract already has been done by the Directors Guild of America, which reached an agreement on its new contract in November. That deal, which contained solid gains and no rollbacks, set the pattern of bargaining for the other guilds to follow. The Writers Guild reached a nearly identical agreement on April 2, and SAG-AFTRA is expected to follow suit sometime before its current contract expires June 30.
In Hollywood labor negotiations, however, timing is everything. If negotiations drag on too long and approach the expiration date of an existing contract, producers can get jittery and, fearing a strike, hold off production starts until a new deal is struck. That can cost jobs and money, so labor and management usually try to wrap of their contract talks well in advance of the expiration of an old contract. The DGA did just that when it reached its deal seven months before the expiration of its old contract. The WGA cut it a little closer, reaching a deal with only two months to spare. SAG-AFTRA is cutting it even closer. If negotiations drag on for another month, expect to see a slowdown in production starts. The ongoing contract talks, which are being held at the AMPTP’s headquarters in Sherman Oaks, are being conducted under a “press blackout.”