Actors union details "squeeze" on its members

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - As the Screen Actors Guild entered its seventh day of formal labor negotiations with the studios Tuesday, the union sent its first update to members since talks began.

The SAG Contract 2008 Report, Number One, highlights the plight of the “middle-income actor” and asks, “Are you feeling the squeeze?”

“One of our top priorities in our current TV/theatrical negotiations is the plight of middle-income actors,” the report states. “We’ve heard it over and over again . . . you are not earning the same income that you did several years ago for the same work.”

The outlook for such actors, who earn about $52,000 per year, is bleak, and the reasons are many, according to the report.

Inflation, coupled with fewer reruns and changes in the broadcast business model has led to actors getting less residuals, SAG said.

“Reality TV has taken a big bite out of your residuals and initial compensation for actors,” the report states.

Increased minimum fees for minor and major performers and compensation or pre-approval rights for product integration are among its contract demands, the guild said.

“Minimums have become maximums,” the report states. “The overwhelming majority of major role actors are not able to negotiate salaries. Their jobs are being offered at major role minimum (top of show) as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”

As for product placement, SAG said it isn’t “the soda can on the table anymore. It’s scripted, and it is an integral part of the story and plot development.”

Despite this reminder of what’s at stake for the union, little has been disclosed about the contract discussions. On Monday, SAG and the studios’ bargaining arm, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, met in separate caucuses before meeting together Tuesday to resume formal talks.

Both sides are scheduled to negotiate through Saturday. On Monday, the producers are scheduled to open labor talks with another actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter