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The AMPTP Rejected SAG-AFTRA Proposals for On-Time Payment and Meal Breaks, Among Others

A detailed list posted online shows what the actors' guild deems threats to basic working conditions.
  • SAG-AFTRA negotiated with AMPTP for four weeks before going on strike (Photo courtesy of SAG-AFTRA)
    SAG-AFTRA negotiated with AMPTP for four weeks before going on strike (Photo courtesy of SAG-AFTRA)

    SAG-AFTRA released a detailed list of all its proposals alongside the AMPTP’s rejections for each, and it’s highlighting some pretty basic requests that went without a counter. Along with the most high-profile concerns, there are more than 80 bargaining points, only 16 of which have been agreed upon by both sides.

    Some of the most public issues are that of payment, residuals, and the use of artificial intelligence. SAG-AFTRA’s proposal for New Media Revenue sharing reads: “Casts share in the revenue generated when their performances are exhibited on streaming platforms. This would allow casts to share in the success of high-performing shows.” The AMPTP flat out rejected it.

    SAG-AFTRA’s proposal for Artificial Intelligence reads: “Establish a comprehensive set of provisions to protect human-created work and require informed consent and fair compensation when a ‘digital replica’ is made of a performer, or when their voice, likeness, or performance will be substantially changed using AI.” According to SAG-AFTRA, the AMPTP failed to address the union’s biggest concerns, “leaving principal performers and background actors vulnerable to having most of their work replaced by digital replicas.”

    Beyond even the industry-specific proposals, the AMPTP is rejecting even standard procedures like paying employees on time. SAG-AFTRA asked for increased “liquidated damages due to the unacceptable trend of egregiously late payments.” AMPTP admitted that the studios do not pay on time and have no intention of changing their timelines, and rejected any proposed changes to penalties for doing such. SAG-AFTRA’s site shows that the maximum penalty for a late payment for commercial work, for example, is $96.30.

    Among the most egregious rejections are those that fall under SAG-AFTRA’s “Safety” category. The union proposed increasing penalties for studios that don’t provide meal breaks (noting that the penalties for this have not been increased since 1961) and for failing to give performers sufficient rest between work days.

    For television performers, the current rest period is 12 hours for daily performers (if you wrap at 10:00 PM on a Friday, you couldn’t be called back until 10:00 AM on a Saturday), and 56 hours for weekly performers — essentially eight hours each day of filming. If those breaks are violated, the performer receives either $900 or their daily rate, whichever is less, per the current contract. Meal breaks are required every six hours, and a violation is $25 per performer for the first half hour, $35 per performer for the second half hour, and $50 per performer for each half hour after that. So under the current contract, a studio could keep an actor on set working for 24 hours straight with no meals for $1,760, a drop in the bucket of many multi-million dollar productions (and based on the studio’s track record of paying performers late, fees and all, they could deliver that amount whenever they feel like it under the current contract).

    “Here’s the simple truth,” SAG-AFTRA wrote in a statement. “We’re up against a system where those in charge of multibillion-dollar media conglomerates are rewarded for exploiting workers.”

    In its response issued on July 17, the AMPTP stated “July 17, 2023 Statement from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers SAG-AFTRA continues to mischaracterize the negotiations with AMPTP. Not only does its press release deliberately distort the offers made by AMPTP, it also fails to include the proposals offered verbally to SAG-AFTRA leadership on July 12 … The AMPTP's goal from day one has been to come to a mutually beneficial agreement with SAG-AFTRA. A strike is not the outcome we wanted. For SAG-AFTRA to assert that we have not been responsive to the needs of its membership is disingenuous at best.”

    Additionally, the AMPTP released the same list of concessions it posted after the SAG-AFTRA strike announcement, none of which directly address issues surrounding meal breaks, rest periods, and timely payment. The AMPTP has not yet indicated when it will return to the bargaining table with SAG-AFTRA or the WGA — the latter has now been on strike for 11 weeks.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.