Members of SAG-AFTRA have voted overwhelmingly to ratify the union’s new Network Code, which covers a wide range of non-primetime programs aired on the Big Four broadcast networks, including soap operas, game shows, talk shows and quiz shows, as well as sports and variety shows. The 142,000-member union did not say how many performers cast ballots, but said it was approved by a margin of 93% of those who voted.
The union says the contract generates more than $200 million a year for members, but back when it was an AFTRA contract before the 2012 merger with SAG, AFTRA allowed news organizations to report incorrectly that it generated more than $400 million a year.
The ratification vote on the SAG-AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting — a new three-year contract with the Big Four TV networks — follows the union’s board recommending a yes vote in July. Negotiations with producers began on May 30 and wrapped with a tentative agreement on June 9. The contract term runs through June 30, 2021, retroactive to July 1, 2018.
“I am gratified by our members’ vote of approval for this agreement. SAG-AFTRA members working in this area will benefit from stronger protections and meaningful increases in wages and residuals rates,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris, who served as chair of the Network Television Code Negotiating Committee. “Moreover, the agreement now reflects important new language limiting auditions or meetings in private hotel rooms and residences, which helps us make tangible changes in the way our industry is addressing sexual harassment.”
Per the SAG-AFTRA board, highlights of the agreement include:
Increases in contract minimums over a three-year period, including an 8.7-percent overall wage increase to most program fees, implemented through increases of 2.5% the first year, 3% the second year and 3% the third year. The agreement also significantly improves funding of the AFTRA Retirement Fund.
Automatic increases in other categories are as follows:
- A 4.1% overall wage increase for daytime serial performers, implemented through increases of 1% the first year, 1.5% the second year and 1.5% the third year;
- A 4.6% overall wage increase for background actors employed on variety programs implemented through a 2-percent increase effective Dec. 31, 2018, and a 2.5-percent increase effective July 1, 2020.
- First-year increase in contributions to the AFTRA Retirement Fund of 0.5% and the AFTRA Industry Cooperative Fund of 0.2% with the option to divert 0.5% of second and/or third year wage increases to the AFTRA Retirement Fund.
- A reduction of three hours in the included rehearsal hours for dancers on all but five-minute-or-less and over-five-to-15-minute programs.
- A reduction of one hour in the included rehearsal hours for singers on all but five-minute-or-less and over-five-to-15-minute programs.
- An increase in the overtime rate for certain group dancers on award shows from $45 to $48 per hour effective, July 1, 2018.
- An 11.5% increase in the stand-in and/or dance-ins rates from $26 per hour to $29 per hour by the last year of the contract.
Other highlights of the deaL
- Recognition of Middle Eastern North African as a diverse category.
- An improvement to our harassment-prevention language that explicitly prohibits harassment.
- Improvements in the working hours language for minors. These changes do not impact the working hours for minors working in New York and California, but represent significant improvements for minors working in other states and enhance the union’s ability to enforce working hours in New York and California as well, by spelling out the requirements in a union contract rather than relying solely on state law.
“This contract contains significant gains and protections for members working under the agreement,” SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White said. “Dancers, singers, promo announcers, stand-ins, stunt coordinators and background actors will now receive stronger protections and increased wages that can be built upon in the future. I applaud President Carteris, our terrific member negotiating committee and our superb staff for securing these achievements in this negotiation.”