Arbitrator rules against SAG in ad tiffs

Decision ends a 30-year practice of suing advertisers

A New York arbitrator has ruled that SAG must engage in mandatory bargaining when it comes to determining how much money advertisers should allocate to the union's health and pension fund when it involves a campaign that includes covered and noncovered work.

The decision ends a 30-year practice by SAG's Pension & Health Fund Trustees of suing advertisers, represented through the Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Relations, if the two sides differed on how much should be paid to an actor's health and pension fund.

Allocation issues come into play for various reasons, usually when there is a celebrity advertising campaign that involves commercials as well as print advertising and appearances. Advertisers are required to pay a percentage of the actor's fee into a health and pension fund. But when the actor is being paid for work that includes areas not covered by the guild, such as print advertising, that's where advertisers and SAG trustees have differed.

As a result, the trustees would sue the advertiser, resulting in costly litigation.

The arbitrator's decision ends that practice, and if there is a controversy in allocation payments, that it is up to the union itself, not the trustees, to bargain, JPC attorney Doug Wood said.

"Federal litigation has inappropriately and unfairly been used by the trustees as a sword of Damocles over the heads of advertisers," Wood said. "The JPC is pleased that the arbitrator adopted the JPC's position in its entirety and rejected the arguments put forth by SAG in their entirety."

SAG had no immediate comment. The JPC took the dispute to an arbitrator to decide. SAG could appeal.