SAG-AFTRA Approve Three-year Film and TV Contract

The DGA is expected to approve its contract soon as well, but the WGA, with a May 1 expiration, has not yet set talks.

The combined SAG and AFTRA membership ratified a new motion picture and television deal with the AMPTP today by a healthy margin of 93.52 percent to 6.48 percent. The tentative deal was reached in November, and endorsed by the unions’ boards last month.

The new three-year pact takes effect July 1, 2011. As previously reported, it includes 2% annual wage increases and a one-time 1.5% increase in employer contributions to the pension and health plans, as well as a shift from first-class air travel to new rules favoring business class and coach.

Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard said, "The success of the referendum is a huge boon for members in terms of pension and healthcare contributions.”

AFTRA President Roberta Reardon also stressed the importance of the gain in P&H, remarking “This ratification is a win for union members and it is a critical victory for our health and retirement plans.”

Ballots were mailed to 137,437 members of AFTRA and SAG, of which 25.09 percent returned them, a fairly typical percentage.

The AMPTP issued a statement as well: “The ratification of the new contracts by SAG and AFTRA members is a vote of confidence in the agreements and in our mutual commitment to industry stability. “

Notably, the studio alliance also described the new agreements as “reflect[ing] the benefits of early negotiations.”

Intentionally or not, that highlights the industry’s unease surrounding the Writers Guild negotiations. That union’s contract expires May 1, but no talks have been scheduled yet.

That’s generating concern that the WGA may not schedule negotiations until March, and engage in a brinksmanship strategy in order to seek improvements in areas that SAG/AFTRA did not, such as certain new media and basic cable provisions. The WGA has identified both those areas as priorities, as well as pension and health improvements and workplace issues such as “a deteriorating pitching process.”

An ambitious “Pattern of Demands” – an outline of negotiating priorities – is currently out to WGA members for their approval. It’s due back by January 24.

Also in process is the DGA membership’s vote on their tentative contract. The return date for that ballot has not been announced, but is expected to be sometime this month. Approval is anticipated.