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SAG Members Soundly Ratify Studio Contract

10 Jun, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Screen Actors Guild members overwhelmingly voted to accept the labor contract negotiated over a two-year period with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the union representing studios and TV networks.

The two-year successor agreement, which was approved by 78% of voting members, covers film and digital TV programs, motion pictures and new media productions. The pact became effective at 12:01 a.m. June 10 and expires June 30, 2011.

The contracts provide more than $105 million in wages, increased pension contributions and other gains, and establishes a template for SAG coverage of new media formats.

David White, interim national executive director of SAG, said the decisive voter support will help return members to work with immediate pay raises and puts the guild in a strong position for the future.

There is no change to the DVD residual rate, an issue, among others, SAG president Alan Rosenberg said underscored a labor contract he called “devastatingly unsatisfactory.”

The deal, which in large part mirrored what the studios offered last summer, did not revamp the 20-year-old home video residual agreement — a condition the studios had steadfastly refused to address. That agreement, which calls for residuals to be paid based on 5.4% of 20% of the distributor’s gross, originally applied to VHS, but the subsequent arrival of DVD and Blu-ray made potential residuals a more lucrative prospect.

Guild hardliners, including Rosenberg, long argued actors were misled by studios about the potential of DVD (and subsequent residuals) and vowed not to be duped about new media in the same way. They remain miffed about a coup earlier this year by select guild leaders that resulted in the termination of chief negotiator Doug Allen, related litigation and ongoing infighting.

Indeed, content made for new media that is distributed on packaged media will pay residuals based on 4.5% of 20% of the distributor’s gross on the first $1 million, and 5.4% of 20% of the gross thereafter.

Movie-download residuals (from theatrical releases) would increase from 5.4% of 20% of the distributor’s gross on the first 50,000 units to 9.75% of 20% thereafter. For TV downloads, residuals would increase from the home video rate to 10.5% of 20% of distributor’s gross after the first 100,000 units.

Actor Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) hailed ratification of the labor deal under the new leadership.

“They’ve obviously got the right ideas for making SAG stronger,” he said.

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