SAG-AFTRA and studios agree to begin contract talks amid health crisis

SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris will chair the union's negotiating committee
SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris will chair the union’s negotiating committee
(Vince Bucci / Invision / Associated Press)
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SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s biggest union, and the major studios have agreed to begin contract negotiations at a time when the industry has been roiled by the coronavirus outbreak.

The union, which represents 160,000 actors and performers, and an alliance of major producers, including Amazon and Apple, said they will begin negotiations Monday via teleconference. The union’s current film and TV contract expires June 30.


“SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris will chair the union’s negotiating committee and National Executive Director David White will serve as SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator,” the two groups said, adding that the talks will take place under a media blackout. Carol Lombardini, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, will be the lead negotiator for the studios.

SAG-AFTRA is expected to seek improvements over what the Directors Guild of America was able to secure in a deal this year. Although the DGA negotiated increases to streaming residuals and minimum payments, SAG-AFTRA also will look to address issues such as how long an actor can be forced to work exclusively for one show.

Last summer Netflix, which is not part of the producers alliance, struck a deal with SAG-AFTRA, which applied a minimum salary and turnaround provisions for all Netflix programs and offered more flexibility in scheduling day performers and guest stars on episodic series.

The talks come amid heightened tensions between the AMPTP and the Writers Guild of America.

This week, Lombardini clashed with WGA lead negotiator David Young over the terms for beginning negotiations.

The sides have proposed extending the union’s current three-year contract from May 1 to June 30, but the WGA wants any agreement to include a promise to tackle access to healthcare for its members who have lost work because of the Covid-19 pandemic.


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Young called the group “despicable” after the AMPTP said it agreed to start talks May 11, while extending the existing contract to June 30, but without addressing the health insurance issues.

Lombardini said the group would consider the proposal but that any discussion should include the co-chairs of the union’s health plan as well as its chief executive.