Following today’s vote by the majority of SAG-AFTRA‘s National Board to approve the tentative agreement reached with studio CEOs and the AMPTP earlier this week, the actor’s guild has released more details of the deal.
As they have repeatedly said in the past two day since reaching a deal with the studios to end the 118-day strike, the guild stated Friday “the total package” is “valued at more than one billion dollars in new wages and benefit plan funding.” Coming two days after the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached their tentative agreement, released more compensation information on the deal Friday, several hours after the SAG-AFTRA National Board voted 86% to approve it.
An 80-page summery of the full agreement, which has not yet been made public, will go to eligible members of the guild on November 13, I hear. Ratification voting on the agreement starts November 14 and runs until the first week of December for the 160,000 member guild.
Calling the tentative agreement “a landmark achievement for the union,” SAG-AFTRA this evening noted the “meaningful protections” and consent rights around AI — which had been a big sticking point in discussions with the studios. Unlike today’s press conference with SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and National Executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, Friday’s missive from the guild did not deliver specific numbers for the much vaulted “creation of a new compensation stream for performers working in streaming.”
With the campaign to win members’ votes already clearly afoot, the guild Friday also had a lot to say about wage increases, casting guidelines, relocation allowances and Health and Pension fund contribution caps. In full pitch mode, some of this came up at today’s press conference after the board vote, though not so detailed – you can see below:
The agreement includes an unprecedented wage pattern with two wage increases in the first year of the contract – 7% upon ratification, and another 4% increase effective July 2024, making a compounded first year increase of 11.28%. There will be another 3.5% increase effective July 2025. This package breaks the so-called “industry pattern.”
Wages for background actors will increase by 11% effective November 12, 2023, and then by an additional 4% effective July 1, 2024 and by another 3.5% effective July 1, 2025. And in a monumental breakthrough, for the first time ever, the number of covered positions in the West Coast Zones will equal those of the East Coast Zones. This is projected to add almost 11,000 new covered background work days annually.
A nearly 43% increase to the contribution cap for one-hour productions and nearly 67% increase to the cap for half-hour productions will result in increased contributions to the Health and Pension/Retirement funds, as well as help performers working on those shows to continue qualifying for benefit coverage.
The union achieved the creation of a new compensation stream for performers working in streaming. It provides a substantial bonus on top of existing residuals structures making work in streaming more sustainable for middle class actors. The majority of that compensation will be paid to actors on programs meeting certain viewership requirements. The remaining money will be distributed to other actors working on those streaming platforms through a new, jointly-trusteed distribution fund. This ensures improved compensation and sustainability for a wider range of actors contributing to the success of those platforms. The agreement also adds fixed residuals for stunt coordinators working on television and new media productions.
The contract achieved important gains for hair and makeup equity, the sharing of aggregate diversity statistics, eliminating inappropriate wiggings and paintdowns, gender neutral language, access to gender-affirming care, and translation services. It also provides more sexual harassment prevention protections for performers including the use of intimacy coordinators in scenes involving nudity and simulated sex or upon request and additional safeguards for background.
Additional gains include establishing minimums by applying television terms to high budget made-for-AVOD programming.
Meaningful protections for the casting process have been established, including provisions specifying that breakdowns, sides, and/or scripts shall be provided no less than 48 hours prior to the submission deadline (excluding weekends and holidays). This is increased to 72 hours for minors. Talent may not be asked to perform more than eight (8) industry standard pages for a first self-tape or twelve (12) industry standard pages for a second or subsequent call back. Additionally, if memorization is required, performers will be entitled to compensation. And performers may not be requested to appear nude or while wearing attire more revealing than a bathing suit that could be worn at a public pool. Producers must also provide opportunities to interview virtually or in person on a first come, first served basis with accommodations for performers with disabilities, senior performers, and minors.
Substantial improvements in relocation allowances for series performers were also made, covering $5,000 per month for up to 6 months with no cap on the number of seasons. Based on employment patterns, this amounts to a 153% effective increase in relocation payments.
However, qualifying that “our projections are going to have to be sort of stress tested,” Crabtree-Ireland in the presser Friday confirmed the total payout to guild members from the streaming bonus fund will be around $120 million over the span of the new contract, or $40 million a year. While setting up a new “pocket” for cast, as Drescher said, and introducing the notion into future talks, that $120 million is far less than the $500 million SAG-AFTRA had been asking for in revenue sharing demands at the very beginning of talks.
With all that, Drescher herself admitted that the criteria of the new compensation stream for performers not even starting to flow unless a show is watched by 20% of a steamer’s subscriber base will only mean anything for cast on a “thimble worth of shows.” Attempting to deflect potential criticism of the $120 million streaming bonus fund, which may have resulted in 14% of the guild’s National Board voting against the contract before today’s much delayed press conference, the recently reelected SAG-AFTRA boss said she hoped to see that 20% fall to 10% in the next contract talks, which will start up ahead of the June 30, 2026 expiration of this contract, if it is ratified.
Talking to Deadline after Friday’s press conference, Drescher also had some hints what she is preparing for the 2026 negotiations with the studios and “planning our play and playing our plan”
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) November 11, 2023
At today’s presser, both guild president Drescher and chief negotiator Crabtree-Ireland praised the deal for shattering pattern bargaining and being “industry-breaking.” That’s the same talking points language used in the material SAG-AFTRA sent out this evening. Whether that proves to be the case or whether SAG-AFTRA’s deal bares many of the hallmarks of what the DGA and the long striking WGA achieved in June and September of this year remains to be seen once we get a look at the fine print.