SAG-AFTRA Reaches Industrywide Music Video Deal

3:58 PM PST 06/01/2012 by Jonathan Handel
SAG/AFTRA

The three-year deal includes minimums, pension and health benefits and a range of working-condition protections.

Capping a year of effort, SAG-AFTRA announced Friday that it had reached the first-ever industrywide agreement covering dancers in music videos. The deal, which encompasses Sony Music, UMG, Warner, EMI, Disney and their subsidiary labels, came less than two weeks after the union’s board gave its executive director, David White, the power to issue a Do Not Work Order against the labels.

The three-year agreement was reached in the early morning hours of June 1, after the current round of talks between the union and label representatives commenced on May 30 in Los Angeles. The agreement is a milestone not only for the music video business but also for the new union: it’s the first agreement reached by the post-merger SAG-AFTRA.

The agreement “result(s) in solid gains for SAG-AFTRA members (and lays) the groundwork for a cooperative partnership with the industry, ” said White.

“The industry really stepped up and worked with us to give performers a solid contract,” added the union’s assistant national executive director of sound recordings, Randall Himes.

On the company side, Universal Music Group chairman & CEO Lucian Grainge expressed pleasure at “the strong partnership that we continue to have with SAG-AFTRA” and said that the agreement “not only reflects that relationship, but is testament to the vision that we share with David and Randy in working together to meet the many new challenges facing the music industry.”

The contract now goes to the union’s board for approval, most likely at its meeting next month. Key deal terms include:

•           A minimum daily rate for dancers (the union did not indicate the rate)

•           Reuse fees (the formula was not described)

•           A 12.5-percent contribution to AFTRA health and retirement for all covered performers

•           Guaranteed production conditions, including water, toilets, chairs and shelters

•           Improved audition conditions, including notification to performers (or their representatives) of start times; individual audition times no longer than four hours; suitable shelter provided during auditions; scale paid if audition footage is used in a music video and reuse of audition footage is paid pursuant to a reuse agreement

•           12-hour rest periods between call times, including rehearsals, makeup and wardrobe

•           Safety protections and additional compensation for hazardous performances

•           Wardrobe allowance

•           Union access to auditions, rehearsals and productions

•           A binding grievance and arbitration process

•           A joint labor-management committee to resolve issues as they arise and to assess employment patterns and other matters over the term of the contract

The deal covers all videos produced by any production company producing music videos on behalf of the labels, meaning that the union will not have to try to organize the field on a production by production basis. The union described the pact as being structured as a separate contract under the existing AFTRA National Sound Recordings Code, which is the agreement that covers the music business.

According to the statement, the agreement will cover “virtually all” music video performers, including dancers, actors, narrators, singers, models and stunt performers. Choreographers and assistant choreographers are also covered for purposes of receiving health and retirement contributions.

Negotiations between the labels and AFTRA began June 2011. The union effort was led in part by dancers and choreographers, including SAG-AFTRA board members Bobbie Bates, Sharon Ferguson and Galen Hooks. It included grassroots efforts – including a flashmob dance protest at Sony Music in January – with the involvement of a group called the Dancers’ Alliance.

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Email: jhandel@att.net

Twitter: @jhandel

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