Nearly a week into negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) in an attempt to end the 92-day actors’ strike, talks have stalled and negotiations have been suspended.
On Wednesday night, the AMPTP, led by Carol Lombardini, and SAG-AFTRA, under recently-reelected President Fran Drescher, released lengthy and detailed statements about the status of talks, which now have ended, as SAG-AFTRA members return to the picket lines on Thursday.
After the Writers Guild of America was able to ratify its new three-year Minimum Basic Agreement, it was thought that things between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP would be settled shortly hence. Discussions between the latter two groups resumed on Oct. 2 with a few days off, including Tuesday of this week. Lombardini was joined in the negotiations on the AMPTP side by Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Donna Langley from NBCUniversal, and Disney’s Bob Iger, who have all been present for recent negotiation sessions.
You can read the full statement that SAG-AFTRA posted to its social media in the middle of the night:
“It is with profound disappointment that we report the industry CEOs have walked away from the bargaining table after refusing to counter our latest offer.”
“We have negotiated with them in good faith, despite the fact that last week they presented an offer that was, shockingly, worth less than they proposed before the strike began.”
“These companies refuse to protect performers from being replaced by AI, they refuse to increase your wages to keep up with inflation, and they refuse to share a tiny portion of the immense revenue YOUR work generates for them.”
“We have made big, meaningful counters on our end, including completely transforming our revenue share proposal, which would cost the companies less than 57¢ per subscriber each year. They have rejected our proposals and refused to counter.”
“Instead, they use bully tactics. Just tonight, they intentionally misrepresented to the press the cost of the above proposal – overstating it by 60%.”
“They have done the same with A.I., claiming to protect performer consent, but continuing to demand “consent” on the first day of employment for use of a performer’s digital replica for an entire cinematic universe (or any franchise project).”
“The companies are using the same failed strategy they tried to inflict on the WGA – putting out misleading information in an attempt to fool our members into abandoning our solidarity and putting pressure on our negotiators.”
“But, just like the writers, our members are smarter than that and will not be fooled.”
“We feel the pain these companies have inflicted on our members, our strike captains, IATSE, Teamsters and Basic Crafts union members, and everyone in this industry. We have sacrificed too much to capitulate to their stonewalling and greed.”
“We stand united and ready to negotiate today, tomorrow, and every day.”
“Our resolve is unwavering. Join us on picket lines and at solidarity events around the country and let your voices be heard. One day longer. One day stronger. As long as it takes. – Your TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee”
🧵To Our Fellow #SagAftraMembers:
It is with profound disappointment that we report the industry CEOs have walked away from the bargaining table after refusing to counter our latest offer. (1/11) pic.twitter.com/nd2PfpDH4F
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) October 12, 2023
You can also read the full AMPTP statement as posted on Wednesday night after a rough day of negotiations, described as “much rockier than usual”:
“Negotiations between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA have been suspended after SAG-AFTRA presented its most recent proposal on October 11. After meaningful conversations, it is clear that the gap between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA is too great, and conversations are no longer moving us in a productive direction.
SAG-AFTRA’s current offer included what it characterized as a viewership bonus that, by itself, would cost more than $800 million per year – which would create an untenable economic burden. SAG-AFTRA presented few, if any, moves on the numerous remaining open items.
Member company executives and AMPTP representatives met with SAG-AFTRA for five days over the past eight workdays. During that time period, AMPTP extended offers including:
- A first-of-its-kind success-based residual for High-Budget SVOD productions.
- The highest percentage increase in minimums in 35 years, which would generate an additional $717 million in wages and $177 million in contributions to the Pension and Health Plans during the contract term.
- A 58% increase in salaries for major role (guest star) performers wages on High Budget SVOD Programs.
- A 76% increase in High Budget SVOD foreign residuals for the four largest streaming services.
- Substantial increases in pension and health contribution caps, ranging from 22-33%, which will make it easier for performers to qualify for additional periods of health coverage and earn years of service toward a pension.
- Meeting nearly all of the Union’s demands on casting, including guardrails around self-tapes, options for virtual and in-person auditions, and accommodations to performers with disabilities.
- Compensation adjustments of 25% for singers who dance and dancers who sing on camera in the same session, whether in rehearsal or photography, representing a 30% increase over current wages.
- Wage increases for stunt coordinators of 10% in the first year and outsized increases in years two and three, and giving television stunt coordinators fixed residuals for the first time ever.
- Substantial improvements in relocation allowance – a 200% increase if the performer is on an overnight location for 6 months. The relocation allowance would now be payable for every season in which the performer is on an overnight location (versus a current limit of two to four seasons).
- Substantial increases in Schedule F money breaks of between 11% and 41%. The 41% increase applies to one-hour television programs, which covers the largest number of productions done under the Agreement.
- A 25% increase in span money breaks.
- Covering performance capture work under the Agreement, which the Union has sought for 20 years.
- On AI protections:
- Advance consent from the performer and background actor to create and use Digital Replicas;
- No Digital Replica of the performer can be used without the performer’s written consent and description of the intended use in the film;
- Prohibition of later use of that Replica, unless performer specifically consents to that new use and is paid for it; and,
- A “Digital Alteration” that would change the nature of an actor’s performance in a role is not permitted without informing the performer of the intended alteration and securing the performer’s consent.
On common issues, such as general wage increases, High-Budget SVOD residuals, and viewership bonuses, the AMPTP offered the same terms that were ratified by the DGA and WGA. Yet SAG-AFTRA rejected these.
We hope that SAG-AFTRA will reconsider and return to productive negotiations soon.”
Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) released its own statement to members following the settlement of the WGA portion of the strike, which caused some friction within the guild, with some calling it “damage control.” The DGA were able to settle their own three-year contract in June without ever going on strike.
“We are extremely proud of the contract we negotiated and you overwhelmingly ratified earlier this year. That’s why we’ve been discouraged to see a number of recent news articles and social media posts misrepresenting the extraordinary gains we made.
The bottom line is that we negotiated an excellent agreement for our members which contains advancements impacting every category of member in our Guild, secures our economic and creative rights and prioritizes safety and diversity. Everything we won in our deal is focused on building for the future, adapting to the massive changes in our industry and making sure we can all continue to share in the success of what we create. We will be rolling out more specific information in the weeks ahead about the implementation of the following gains.
Our achievements include a number of industry firsts, including a new structure for foreign streaming that will result in a 76% increase in foreign residuals and sets us up to benefit from the explosive growth of streaming around the world. We also established the industry’s first-ever terms and conditions for high-budget non-dramatic programs made for SVOD and significantly increased the number of programs that will now pay residuals, and we became the first union to negotiate compensation, minimums, and creative rights for original dramatic programs made for AVOD. And we were the first union to negotiate artificial intelligence protections that guarantee that generative AI cannot be used to perform your jobs.
In addition to these industry firsts, we also negotiated the largest wage increases in over 30 years, strengthened our health and pension plans, funded a parental leave program, banned the use of live ammunition on set, created the first-ever collectively-bargained pilot program for independent safety advisors on set, established Juneteenth as an additional paid holiday and expanded important diversity and inclusion advancements.
With respect to DGA-specific gains — feature directors will now receive compensation for soft prep which can result in an additional $50K in compensation per project. Episodic television directors also achieved breakthrough creative rights gains and for the first time will be paid for post-production. The addition of two paid post days plus the additional guaranteed shoot day results in a 28% compensation increase for most one-hour series made for Pay TV or SVOD. In addition, we enhanced restrictions on the use of electronic transmission from set and increased director participation in casting. For Assistant Directors, we established a one-hour reduction in the workday with no reduction in pay which will either result in shorter workdays or significantly increased extended-day payments.
And AD/SMs will now receive double-time for work on holidays and seventh days.
We achieved these hard-fought gains because of our unity and resolve, and the more than a year and a half of research and preparation that preceded the start of our formal negotiations, as well as the support we received from our sister Guilds and Unions.
The misguided articles and social media posts that seek to misrepresent our contract and sow division between the Guilds only benefit the studios and streamers. We can be proud of our contract and at the same time continue our firm support of our sister Guilds and Unions in the fights for their own fair deals.
We welcome the news that members of the WGA have ratified their contract with the AMPTP and congratulate the WGA Negotiating Committee and Board for reaching a forward-looking agreement that will benefit their members. Now there are two Guilds who are happy with the advances they’ve made.
We also continue to support SAG-AFTRA in their fight to win a fair deal on behalf of their members. We hope they will soon be the third. And we will be there for the I.A.T.S.E. and Teamsters in their fights next year.
We know the last few months have not been easy. We hear from members every day that being out of work for so long has taken a toll. We know you have faced significant adversity in the form of professional uncertainty and economic hardship. We will continue to offer you support for as long as necessary.
We are fortunate to work in an industry where so many of us benefit from the protection of strong unions. As this year’s collective bargaining cycle continues, we will keep you informed and updated. We all look forward to getting back to doing what we love — working together to create the stories that entertain and enlighten billions of people around the world.”
The DGA was meant with mixed responses, some feeling that the directors had essentially sided with the studio bosses and that the heads of the group settled too quickly.
Within the course of a day, three of the primary guilds and the group representing the studios and networks have released statements that confirm that, describe any recent progress, the entertainment industry is still in shambles with few agreeing on the best way to settle things.
This week, late night talk shows returned with NBC’s Saturday Night Live returning this Saturday, Oct. 12, with former cast member Pete Davidson returning to host.
One major problem currently is that the studios and networks are still relying on the actors on various projects being available to do press and make talk show appearances to help promote those projects. A few upcoming films like Sofia Coppola‘s Priscilla and Michael Mann‘s Ferrari have received waivers so that actors could appear at film festivals, with A24 and NEON being two distributors who made separate deals from the AMPTP.
If thet two parties don’t return to the table, one has to presume that some of the bigger November and December releases, such as Lionsgate‘s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, and Warner Bros. releases, The Color Purple, Wonka, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, may have to consider moving if actors are still on strike leading up to their release.
Deadline contributed to the reporting on this story.