After directors union reaches deal, SAG-AFTRA affirms strike authorization

An ongoing Hollywood writers strike continues and studios now have additional talks at hand, as they reached a tentative deal for a new contract with the union representing directors over the weekend. Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA, which represents performers, on Monday voted overwhelming in favor to authorize a strike as they head into negotiations this week.

Negotiations for the some 11,500 TV and film writers represented by the Writers Guild of America and studios (including Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal, Paramount and Sony) represented by the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) hit an impasse on May 2, with the strike now stretching into its sixth week.

Against that backdrop, the Directors Guild of America (DGA), representing 19,000 members, on June 3 said they reached a tentative agreement on a three-year collective bargaining agreement, in what DGA’s Negotiations Committee Chair Jon Avnet called “a truly historic deal.”

The agreement will be submitted to the Guild’s National Board for approval at a special board meeting slated for today, Tuesday, June 6.

“It provides significant improvements for every Director, Assistant Director, Unit Production Manager, Associate Director and Stage Manager in our Guild,” stated Avnet. “In these negotiations we made advances on wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights and diversity, as well as securing essential protections for our members on new key issues like artificial intelligence – ensuring DGA members will not be replaced by technological advances. This deal would not have been possible without the unity of the DGA membership, and we are grateful for the strong support of union members across the industry.”

The deal includes wage increases as well as 76% increase in foreign residuals for dramatic programs made for the largest SVOD platforms, making residuals for a one-hour episode now roughly $90,000 for the first three years of exhibition.

“Significantly, and for the first time ever, global SVOD residuals will be paid based on the number of international subscribers, said Russell Hollander, national executive director of the DGA. “The result is an 76% increase in foreign residuals for the biggest services. As our industry becomes increasingly global, these gains are imperative to ensuring our members are valued and compensated for their incredible work.”

It also agreed on protections related to artificial intelligence, confirming that AI is not a person and that generative AI can’t replace the duties performed by DGA members. It also achieved terms, creative rights protections, working conditions and residuals for scripted dramatic projects made for free streaming services such as Freevee, Tubi and Roku.   

Attention turns to SAG-AFTRA

With a tentative contract in place with DGA, attention now turns to negotiations with SAG-AFTRA, which represents around 160,000 performers.

In an overwhelming vote, SAG-AFTRA members on May 5 voted 97.91% in favor of a strike authorization ahead of negotiations for TV, theatrical and streaming contracts. Nearly 65,000 members cast ballots, reflecting a voting percentage of 47.69% of eligible voters.

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists unions merged together in 2012.

To be clear, the vote doesn’t mean the union has yet called a strike, but by affirming the authorization, it means that the union’s National Board has the power to initiate a strike if they’re unable to reach deal terms with AMPTP.  Negotiations start June 7 and the current SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical contract expires at midnight on June 30.

The writers’ strike has already impacted TV and film production schedules and an SAG-AFTRA strike would mean remaining film and TV production is shut down.

And a deal with DGA doesn’t necessarily mean the actors union will follow suit. After the DGA deal was reached with AMPTP, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director and chief negotiator at SAG-AFTRA, congratulated Hollander but indicated it would not influence the guild’s own negotiations.

Crabtree-Ireland said the union remains close with WGA and DGA and “will seek to capitalize on the insights we have gained from their bargaining process and progress they have made on common issues.”

Some key concerns that have been similar across guilds include streaming residuals and artificial intelligence, according to Variety.

That said, Crabtree-Ireland continued that its bargaining strategy has never relied on the outcome or status of any other union’s negotiations.

“We continue to stand in strong solidarity with the members of the WGA and with their strike, and we congratulate the DGA on their bargaining,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland stated.