AFTRA makes network TV deal

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After less than a month at the bargaining table, AFTRA and the major networks and producers reached a tentative agreement late Saturday on a new network TV code for its daytime and other members, which will include a new residual structure for new media.

"This agreement is a major milestone for AFTRA as substantial gains in wages and working conditions for performers were successfully achieved," said AFTRA president Roberta Reardon, chair of the negotiating committee. "This contract is extraordinary for performers and made significant progress on many fronts, including importantly new-media jurisdiction and compensation."

Talks between AFTRA's 35-member negotiating committee and the networks and producers began Feb. 19 in Los Angeles and concluded Saturday in New York. The current contract is set to expire June 30.

The agreement comes at a time when AFTRA has been urging SAG to start early talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on the two unions' primetime contract, known as Exhibit A of the network code, which the two actors unions have jointly bargained for years.

In recent weeks, tensions have flared between the unions, with SAG saying that the "wages and working conditions" process must conclude before formal talks with the AMPTP. SAG has indicated that it does not intend to start those talks until April.
AFTRA's ability to reach an agreement with the producers and networks could bolster its position that starting talks now on the unions' primetime contract is in their best interest. Although not all members of the AMPTP were involved in the network code negotiations, it does indicate a willingness by producers to start talking now rather than later.
The AMPTP also has said that it welcomes talks now with the unions and in a statement issued Sunday applauded "the latest labor agreement between AFTRA and the television networks. This agreement shows what can be accomplished when both sides approach the negotiating table in a timely, serious and focused way."

A SAG representative could not be reached by press time Sunday.

The new network code agreement includes increases in wage rates, increases in contributions to AFTRA's health and retirement plan and preserves universal coverage of background performers and contact security for daytime serial contract players.

In the area of new media, the agreement establishes a new residual pay structure for paid Internet downloads that boosts the rate currently paid by employers and establishes a residual rate for ad-supported streaming and use of clips on the Internet.
Additionally, it establishes union coverage and terms for entertainment programming and promotion announcements made directly for new media, like webisodes.

"Our fundamental goal in these negotiations was to protect performers' interests and improve their wages and working conditions in the face of challenging times," said Ron Morgan, AFTRA network code negotiating committee co-chair and Los Angeles Local president. "Our priorities were to modernize certain aspects of our contract and establish a framework for union members to participate in new media as these businesses evolve."

The AFTRA network TV code covers actors and all on-camera and off-camera talent on all forms of television programming: syndicated dramas, daytime serials, game shows, talk shows, variety and musical programs, news, sports, reality shows, and promotional announcements.

The agreement is subject to approval by the national board and ratification by its members.
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