AFTRA objects to Sony 'hiatus'



AFTRA took issue on Tuesday with Sony Pictures TV's placing actors on two Sony-produced shows on unpaid "hiatus."

The studio notified regulars on the sitcoms " 'Till Death" and "Rules of Engagement" on Friday that they would go unpaid while production is shut down but that the performers were still bound by exclusive Sony agreements during the WGA strike.

"Once AFTRA staff members complete an investigation and gather all documentation this week, AFTRA will take appropriate actions on behalf of the performers," AFTRA spokesman John Hinrichs said. "That can include filing claims with the employer to ultimately seeking arbitration."

Sony notifications to actors were "clearly a violation" of the union's current dramatic-primetime agreement, Hinrichs added.

SAG previously warned it would pursue similar actions if its actors received any unpaid hiatus notices, though no SAG-signatory programs have been so affected as yet.

Under SAG and AFTRA contracts, actors can be terminated through "force majeure" several weeks into a strike. But short of that, the labor organizations maintain that studio options during strike-related shutdowns are twofold: suspending actors for up to five weeks at half-pay or putting them "on hold" at full pay to keep exclusive-services clauses in effect.

SAG and AFTRA negotiate their minimum basic agreements for TV actors jointly, with their current pacts set to run through June 30.

Hinrichs said the union has sent e-mails to its members, explaining their rights in strike-related show shutdowns.