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Actors unions agree to a extension

SAG, AFTRA can now negotiate jointly
/ Source: The Associated Press

The two unions representing movie and TV actors have agreed to a one-year extension of their current contract with studios that would give actors raises and the right to jointly bargain in the future.

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists extended the labor pact that was set to expire June 30. It still requires ratification by members of both unions. If approved it would expire June 30, 2005.

The agreement gives actors a 2.5 percent salary hike and requires members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to increase contributions to the actors’ health plans by a half percent.

The pact also extends union coverage to performers who appear on programs shot using digital cameras on the UPN and WB networks.

The most important gain is the right for both actors unions to negotiate jointly on all terms and conditions for prime-time dramatic TV production. Talks will begin in the fall on a new three-year agreement.

Previously, SAG and AFTRA negotiated separately and often signed contracts with different levels of benefits, then competed against each other for who would represent actors on particular television shows.

“Most importantly, this extension locks down the right for SAG and AFTRA to negotiate all prime-time dramatic programming together, giving the unions unprecedented leverage that we have not had since the advent of television,” SAG President Melissa Gilbert said.

The extension was agreed to in order to avoid the kind of work slowdown that happened several years ago when negotiations went on past the contract expiration. Then, studios rushed productions in anticipation of a strike, which never came. The backlog of movies and TV shows already filmed caused a subsequent monthslong work slowdown.