Q: What timetable now applies to implementing the new Contract?

The new Contract began April 1, 2009, but is not officially approved until the SAG and AFTRA Boards and members vote favorably on its ratification. The union voting process should be completed by May 15, 2009. Since the new Contract was unanimously approved by the SAG and AFTRA negotiating committees, it is virtually assured that it will be ratified by the union Boards and members. But nothing is certain, so there are two options:

  • Continue to operate under the current contract and make retroactive payments of the new rates once the union Boards and members ratify the new Contract
  • Pay the new rates (the unions have issued new rate charts), and run the risk that the new Contract will not be ratified and refunds might be required. Since getting refunds for overpayments from actors is very difficult, the risk associated with paying the new rates may outweigh the benefits of avoiding additional accounting. Each company needs to make that determination on an individual basis.

Q: How long until the deal is ratified by the unions’ Boards and members?

The new Contract was unanimously approved by the Commercials Committees of both unions. It will now go to each of the union Boards for approval, and will then be sent out to the union members for a vote on ratification. This entire process should be completed by May 15.

Q: Until the new rates are published, how should I pay actors?

It is probably better to pay under the old rates until the new ones are all agreed upon. Then you will be able to make retroactive payments to actors. The proposed new rates will be published shortly, but will not be official until the unions’ Boards and members ratify the new Contract. While you can pay under the new rates prior to ratification, you then take the risk of seeking reimbursement should the unions’ Boards or members fail to ratify the new Contract.

Q: Which commercials are subject to the new rates and new Contract provisions?

The new rates, terms and provisions apply to the following:

  • All original commercials produced on or after April 1, 2009
  • All new or additional versions of commercials originally produced under prior contracts for commercials that are integrated on or after April 1, 2009 under the Integrating of Commercials into Different Commercials  provisions
  • All versions of commercials that are edited and aired after April 1, 2009, other than as expressly permitted under the Editing of Commercials provisions

Any terms, rates or conditions of current performer contracts that are more favorable to the performer than those under the new Contract remain in effect, although we are not immediately aware of any such provisions.

Q: Can I still freely bargain for made-for-Internet or made-for-New-Media commercials, and set any rate I can get the actor to agree to?

Yes. The minimums will not apply until April 1, 2011. So you can continue to freely bargain until that time. Even when the minimums are established, your right to freely bargain on editing remains.

Q: What happens now with the eight-week cycle for the Internet and New Media?

The eight-week cycle is now a permanent part of the new Contract. You can run consecutive eight-week cycles as well. Nor do you need to ask an actor if you can use his or her spot for an eight-week cycle if they have not objected to Internet use. With regard to rates, the one-year moveover rate is now 3.5 session fees, and the eight-week cycle is now 1.33 session fees.

Q: Will the JPC be conducting any seminars to explain the new Contract?

Yes. We’ll have a schedule for seminars out in a few weeks.

Q: Where can I get more information?

Information will be forthcoming as it develops. For the next few weeks, you need to be patient as documents are finalized and rates are set. The SAG and AFTRA approval process will also take us through to May 15. But I’ll try to keep everyone posted on my JPC Blog at the ANA website, as well as here on the Adlaw by Request blog. In the meantime, please feel free to email me at dwood@reedsmith.com or call me at 212 549 0377.