EXCLUSIVE: In a clever ruse leading up to its recently concluded contract talks, SAG-AFTRA filed claims against every TV production company in the country, accusing them of violating its contract’s travel provisions. Deadline has learned, however, those claims were a bargaining chip and never intended to be pursued.
“I don’t want people to believe that that is the ordinary course of what happens with claims,” said Ray Rodriguez, the union’s chief contracts officer, when asked about it Tuesday during an informational meeting in Atlanta. “The claims that we’re addressing here are claims that were filed as part of a sustained campaign identifying and filing travel claims for the specific purpose of applying pressure in this negotiation. We filed claims against every TV producer in the United States. It was all done as part of a strategy for preparation and pressure for the negotiations. We had a lot of conversations with the agents about that as we were filing those claims. So that’s not a regular claims process. It is a strategic move that we made in the direction of trying to improve the contract. So that’s sort of how we wanted to use that.”
As a result, the union says it achieved “a historic breakthrough in the rules governing travel for television performers, including an up to five-fold increase in the fees due to series performers who work at locations away from home. The travel rules for television were also rationalized and clarified, closing many loopholes and ambiguities that have allowed for abuse.”
Opponents of the new contract, including presidential candidate Peter Antico, say the union gave away so-called “portal to portal” travel pay, in which performers on location are paid from the time they are picked up at their hotels each morning until the time they are returned. Portal to portal had never been codified in past contracts but has been the generally accepted practice for decades.