SAG-AFTRA Commercials Negotiations 'Cordial and Positive'

4:41 PM PST 02/14/2013 by Jonathan Handel

The negotiations may test whether the merged union has greater leverage than its separate predecessors.

As befits a Valentine’s Day meet-up, the first day of negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the advertising industry were “cordial and positive,” according to a joint statement released Thursday by the parties.

The statement added that “both groups look forward to productive bargaining under a jointly agreed upon media blackout already in effect.”

The talks are being held between the union and the Joint Policy Committee, so named because it represents two industry associations, one of which represents ad agencies (American Association of Advertising Agencies) and the other, major advertisers (Association of National Advertisers).

Notwithstanding the blackout, The Hollywood Reporter has previously learned and reported on some of the proposals that SAG-AFTRA is understood to be making:

* annual wage increases, rather than the triennial schedule that has been the norm;

* a significant increase in pension and health contributions, which are currently at a percentage rate that’s lower than what motion picture and television producers and studios pay; and

* changes related to Internet commercials.

According to a source, the negotiations will also focus on moving all television commercial work from the AFTRA commercial agreement to the SAG commercial agreement, which is largely the case already.

SAG-AFTRA co-president Roberta Reardon is serving as chair of the negotiating committee. National executive director David White is chief negotiator, while assistant national executive director for contracts Ray Rodriguez and associate national executive director Mathis Dunn are co-lead negotiators.

Douglas Wood of the Reed Smith law firm is chief negotiator on behalf of the industry, as he has been for a number of years.

The existing contract expires March 31. The last ad industry strike by actors was in 2000. No labor disturbances seem likely this time around.

That’s not to say that these negotiations are routine, however. They’re the first national contract negotiations for SAG-AFTRA, and are seen by some as the first test of merger advocates’ assertion that merging SAG and AFTRA would bring performers greater leverage.

Bookmark The Hollywood Reporter’s Labor Page for the most in-depth coverage of entertainment unions and guilds.

Email: jhandel99@gmail.com; Twitter: @jhandel

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