Commercials contract goes to vote

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The joint national board of SAG and AFTRA has approved a tentative commercials contract and will pass it on to their memberships for ratification. The board met by videoconference Saturday to vote on the proposal and made the announcement thereafter.

The unions reached tentative agreement with the Joint Policy Committee, the organization that bargains for the advertising industry, on April 1 — hours after the previous contract expired. The parties negotiated for 51/2 weeks before the SAG-AFTRA committee recommended the offer to its board unanimously.

Balloting will take place during the next three weeks, with a simple majority of yes votes required for passage.

The three-year deal, which includes more than $36 million in wage-rate increases and about $21 million in increased contributions to the unions' pension and health plans, would run through March 31, 2012.

According to the unions, the combined value of the SAG and AFTRA contracts is projected at more than $2.9 billion for working performers, including actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stuntpeople and extras.

The deal also lays the groundwork for a two-year pilot study of the Gross Rating Points model, proposed by Booz & Co., which would restructure compensation to performers. SAG, AFTRA and the JPC, which championed the new methodology during negotiations, are required to discuss the study's results by Jan. 3, 2012.

For the moment, SAG and AFTRA have retained the long-standing pay-for-play compensation model.

Other terms of the contract include a cap on annual pension and health-care contributions, a payment structure for new-media platforms, new monitoring provisions and other improvements for performers in a wide range of media.

The successful joint bargaining marked a change from the rancorous relationship that led to the unions parting ways in March 2008 on feature and primetime contract negotiations. AFTRA signed a broadcast television contract with the AMPTP in May.

Under a nondisparagement agreement brokered by the AFL-CIO, SAG and AFTRA agreed this year to bargain jointly on the commercials contract only.
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