SAG-AFTRA Board Approves Two Contracts Including Network Code Worth $200 Million Annually, Not $400 Million


The SAG-AFTRA national board has overwhelmingly approved terms of a new contract called the 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 pact now goes to the union’s members for final ratification.

The national board Saturday also unanimously approved a first-ever tentative agreement with Telemundo Television Studios, which was reached July 12 covering Spanish-language television performers. “This first contract creates a solid foundation from which to build and speaks to the fact that we all deserve strong protections and respect,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in announcing the news.

The agreement with Telemundo followed 15 months of negotiations. Among the key elements of the new three-year deal are: contributions to and participation in the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan and SAG-Producers Pension Plan for the first time; residuals for both foreign and domestic exploitation and streaming platforms, based on a percentage of Telemundo’s gross receipts; first-ever guaranteed minimum rates for all covered performer categories (including actors, stunt performers, singers and dancers); annual increases in all newly-established minimums between 1%-2% per year; and newly established working conditions and safety protections.

The Network Code, meanwhile, was approved by 79% of the board members, who are recommending a “yes” vote to the union’s members. Ratification voting will be conducted via an online vote. 

“This agreement reflects $200 million in member earnings across nearly all television day parts,” Carteris said. “This contract is SAG-AFTRA’s first major agreement to include language regarding sexual harassment – a movement towards true systemic change.”

As Carteris noted, the contract generates about $200 million in earnings every year, but prior to the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA – when the Network Code was AFTRA’s largest contract – AFTRA said it was worth more than $400 million a year. That grossly inflated figure was reported and re-reported in various news outlets every time the contract came up for renewal, and AFTRA did nothing to set the record straight.

In 2002, news accounts misreported that the contract was worth “more than $400 million of work annually.” If fact, the earnings were about half that. The same bogus figure was reported in numerous news outlets again in 2005, 2007 and 2010, noting variously that the contract was worth either “more than” or “approximately” $400 million.

But then, in February 2012, a week before merger ballots were put in the mail, AFTRA revealed that the contract was really only worth about $200 million a year, but no one until now has ever reported on the $200 million discrepancy that was allowed to stand for a decade. Last month, when a tentative deal was reached on the new pact, SAG-AFTRA said in a statement that the it “generates more than $200 million a year in covered earnings.” 

The new contract includes increases in contract minimums spread over a three-year period. That includes an 8.7% overall wage increase to most program fees, with a 2.5% pay raise in the first year and 3% in the second and third years. The AFTRA Retirement Fund also gets a bump in funding

The pact also includes automatic pay hikes for daytime serial performers, background actors, certain group dancers, stand-ins, and dance-ins. It also includes improved harassment-prevention language, underling clauses prohibiting harassment, and adjusts the working hours language for minors.

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