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SAG-AFTRA reaches deal to represent workers at Telemundo

SAG-AFTRA reaches deal to represent workers at Telemundo
Telemundo local news station KVEA Channel 52 shares it newsroom with KNBC, Channel 4 in Burbank. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

After more than a year of negotiations, SAG-AFTRA said Thursday that it has reached a tentative contract with Telemundo Television Studios to cover Spanish-language television performers.

The agreement includes participation and contributions to the guild’s health and pension plans, as well as increases in certain compensation.

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SAG-AFTRA leaders said details of the new agreement will be presented at an informational meeting in Miami, and later to the SAG-AFTRA National Board for approval at its upcoming meeting on July 21.

Telemundo performers voted in March 2017 to organize with SAG-AFTRA, with 81% of eligible voters choosing to unionize. The Miami-based network was acquired by NBCUniversal in 2001 and is the largest employer of Spanish-language performers in the United States,

Last year’s vote marked a victory for SAG-AFTRA, which has been agitating for about 15 years to extend union benefits to actors who work on the network's popular shows. The guild claimed that Telemundo paid its performers half of what English-language actors earn on other NBCUniversal-owned networks, and that Telemundo doesn't provide its telenovela actors with healthcare, contribute to their pensions or pay standard overtime or residuals.

The new three-year contract is expected to remedy at least some of the points of contention. Although the union didn’t disclose the details of the contract, it released some general terms of the deal.

SAG-AFTRA said the agreement includes residuals for both foreign and domestic exploitation and streaming platforms, based on a percentage of Telemundo’s gross revenue. It also includes first-ever guaranteed minimum rates for all covered performer categories.

Compensation in certain areas would increase, including annual hikes between 1% and 2% in all newly established minimums. The contract also upgrades minimum rates for day players after the ninth day of work on any production. Day players are performers who have small speaking roles and are hired on a daily basis without long-term contracts.

“We applaud Telemundo for working together with us to achieve this agreement,” said Pablo Azar, the guild’s negotiating committee chair and a Telemundo performer. “I am so proud to be part of the team that helped establish our first union contract with its health benefits, residuals, and other protections.”

Telemundo Studios said in a statement that it was pleased to have reached an agreement with SAG-AFTRA.

“After a thoughtful and productive negotiation, we look forward to working with our performers and other employees to continue creating the best content in Spanish-language media,” the studio said.

Last year, NBCUniversal said it was disappointed with the vote to unionize, but added in a statement: "We continue to be dedicated to making Telemundo a great place to work and to Telemundo's long-term success."

4:12 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Telemundo Studios.

This article was originally published at 3:05 p.m.

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