SAG-AFTRA and Ad Industry Set Talks

Negotiations will begin February 14, well in advance of contract expiration.

SAG-AFTRA and the advertising industry will hold contract talks beginning Feb. 14, a union spokesperson confirmed Tuesday. The current contract expires March 31, which means the parties will have up to six weeks to conclude negotiations before expiration.

A significant issue for the union is expected to be increasing employer contributions to the union pension and health plans. It’s also likely that the union will seek to unify the SAG and AFTRA TV commercials contracts into a single agreement. SAG-AFTRA co-president will chair the negotiating committee.

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Unifying those contracts may be comparatively straightforward, since the two agreements are almost identical. Much harder will be unifying the SAG TV/theatrical and AFTRA television agreements, which is expected to be on the table in negotiations with the studios and networks. Those talks don’t begin until fall 2013 or winter/spring 2014.

The union merger in March of this year did not merge the contracts or the benefit plans.

With presumably unified commercials contracts but separate benefit plans, there’s likely to be some question as to how employers’ pension and health contributions will be directed: to the SAG plan, the AFTRA plan, the plan that the employer chooses, the plan that the member chooses, or some other method of allocation?

A larger issue is off the table for this round of negotiations: the experiment with revamping commercial residuals to use formulas based on ratings, known as gross ratings points or GRP. Both the union and the ad agencies agreed that problems with available data mean that more study is needed.

Perhaps the biggest issue is the growth of non-union commercial work. It’s not clear whether that’s something that can be addressed in collective bargaining.

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