Among other actions taken this weekend at the first meeting of the new SAG-AFTRA board, National Executive Director David White’s contract was extended from an expiration in early 2014 to May, 2015 (three years out from now). The board also approved a $95 million budget.
The board set July 2 as the start date of Wages & Working Conditions discussions for the Commercials contract, as to which negotiations are slated to begin this fall. A W&W committee of 17 members and 9 alternates will be appointed by the board at its next meeting.
Official SAG-AFTRA announcement here. More from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
OK, maybe it’s a bit premature to talk about actual “negotiations,” but the first real test of the negotiating prowess of the new SAG-AFTRA combination will be upon us later this year. The current SAG and AFTRA Commercials Contracts, originally set to expire on March 31, 2012, were extended for one additional year last fall. Thus they now expire on March 31, 2013.
That may seem like a long way off, but there’s an additional wrinkle. The Joint Policy Committee has been trying for years to revamp the way commercial performers are paid for the use and reuse of their work. Prior to the 2009 Commercials negotiations, the Booz-Allen consulting firm proposed several alternate compensation formulas. In the 2009 negotiations, it was agreed that a “pilot program” would be conducted to see how a formula based on “gross rating points” (“GRP”) would compare with the current contractual formula.
The parties jointly selected PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct this study beginning in 2009. By 2010, the JPC was complaining that advertisers were reluctant to participate in the study. The study itself is completely under wraps, but presumably has gone forward.
So here’s where the “additional wrinkle” mentioned above comes in. In the original 2009 Memorandum of Agreement, the parties agreed to meet on or about October 1, 2011, for no less than six weeks, for the specific purpose of discussing the results of this GRP pilot study. Presumably this timetable has now been pushed back to October 1, 2012. That’s less than six months from now.
The current Commercials contracts are basically the 2003 agreements, as amended by extensions and letter agreements in 2006, 2009, and 2011. There is no doubt that the media landscape has changed drastically in that time. What is unclear is whether the JPC’s proposed GRP-based compensation formula is really the right response to these changes. GRP is a wonky term that only specialists in the advertising business really understand (or at least claim to). The burden will be on the JPC, it seems to us, to persuade the union and its members that it is in their interests to jettison the traditional formulas and go forward with a radically different one. And if agreement cannot be reached, then what?