Actors Unions, Producers Make Deal

American Federation of Radio And Television Artists, AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild, SAG, logos.
Hollywood's two major actors unions have tentatively agreed to a new three-year contract with film and TV producers that they called their richest ever despite being unable to win a larger share of DVD sales.

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said the deal was worth $200 million. The unions, which have about 200,000 members nationwide, had been in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for more than a month. The current contract was set to end June 30.

Under the tentative agreement, actors will get a 9 percent minimum pay raise over three years, more money to shore up the unions' struggling health and pension plans and greater protections for stunt actors and extras, the unions said in a joint statement.

However, actors did not get a larger share of DVD residuals, which unions representing writers and directors had tried unsuccessfully for in their recent contract negotiations.

"We met the expected obstinacy from producers on DVDs and fought the issue until the very end," SAG president Melissa Gilbert said. "But it would be neither wise nor responsible to pursue our only alternative — shutting the town down — and risk losing the historic gains we achieved."

Producers alliance spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti also praised the agreement.

"We think it's a fair deal and it keeps the town working so that certainly relieves a huge pressure point," she said.

The unions' joint board will consider the tentative deal at a meeting Jan. 29, after which the contract must be approved by union members in a vote. That vote has not been scheduled.

"I am proud of what we accomplished in this agreement," AFTRA President John Connolly said. "We made gains in nearly every priority area." He described the fight for increased money from DVD sales as "an uphill battle from the start, and the next round would have been a lockout or a strike."

Movie studios are pulling in billions of dollars more in DVD sales than they are at the box office, and have closely guarded the profits, saying the revenue covers the rising cost of making films. The current home video profit-sharing formula dates to the 1980s.

The unions have been careful to avoid a repeat of the crippling six-month actors strike in 2000 against commercial producers. And the threat of a strike in 2001 prompted studios to stockpile scripts and rush projects into production, and then led to a work slowdown when the walkout didn't occur.