UPDATED, 10:50 AM: It took a few hours, but BET has responded to SAG-AFTRA’s vow to move the Gabrielle Union-Being Mary Jane matter to arbitration. “We disagree with SAG-AFTRA’s position,” a network spokesperson told Deadline in a statement. “The clear contract language and the bargaining history do not support SAG-AFTRA’s theory. We believe SAG-AFTRA and Ms. Union are playing this out in the media as they will not be able to prove in arbitration or court of law.”
PREVIOUS: SAG-AFTRA accused BET and Breakdown Productions Friday of violating the union’s contract with the cable network’s hit show Being Mary Jane. In a statement, the union said that the companies “continue to abuse the option pick-up process and mask which season they are shooting to avoid paying contractually agreed upon raises.” The union said it’s now “moving to arbitration on behalf of the entire cast.”
This move by SAG-AFTRA does not affect the $3 million lawsuit that Being Mary Jane star Gabrielle Union filed in California State Court last month. BET has not formally responded that complaint in the courts.
“It is outrageous that BET and Viacom have been taking advantage of the actors who appear on their television series by attempting to get what amounts to free options without paying the actors the compensation they are entitled to under their agreements,” Union’s attorney Marty Singer told Deadline today. “We are extremely pleased that SAG-AFTRA is pursuing the claim against the Network to protect their members and prevent the network from engaging in this egregious conduct in the future.”
The union and Viacom-owned BET locked horns last month after Union filed her lawsuit claiming that BET violated her contract by forcing her to work back to back seasons without a break in production.
Filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the suit claims that although her contract calls for no more than 13 episodes a season, BET ordered 10-episode fourth and fifth seasons of the series to be shot back-to-back. The actress says that she and the network agreed to those terms, as long as she got a break in filming.
SAG-AFTRA quickly joined the fray, sending a grievance letter to Viacom on October 13 that accused BET of not only violating the star’s contract but the guild’s contract covering the entire cast.
After failing to receive a satisfactory response, the guild today notified the companies that it would be taking them to arbitration.
BET did not return numerous phone calls, but in response to Union’s lawsuit said, “We feel strongly that we are contractually well within our rights and are committed to reaching a swift and positive resolution in this matter.”