Equity Council Approves New Production Contract

News   Equity Council Approves New Production Contract
 
Actors' Equity's governing council voted July 22 to recommend the approval of the new four-year Production Contract.

The agreement was hammered out on July 12 after months of tumultuous negotiating.

The pact will now be sent to the union's ratification group. Its deadline to accept the contract is the end of August.

The highlights of the agreement, as expressed in a prepared statement, are as follows:

* Wages - The new contract provides a wage increase of three percent each year of the four-year contract.

* Benefits - Producers have agreed to meaningful increases in health fund contributions that seek to stabilize the fund for the foreseeable future. * Experimental Touring Program - A new, tiered salary system provides an innovative approach to meet the economic needs of the road. The appropriate tier is utilized based on a set of criteria which includes guarantees from presenters to producers, size of company and other variables. The agreement also includes a provision that provides additional compensation for Equity members for successful engagements before a show recoups, and still more compensation once a show is profitable.

*Promotions - The parties have agreed to a mutually beneficial approach to encourage the use of advertising and marketing materials featuring actors across all mediums, providing more flexibility for producers in show marketing.

* Safety - The parties have agreed to jointly develop a safety protocol that will assist producers, directors, designers and actors in the development and staging process to try to reduce the risk of injury to performers.

Equity and the League weren't divulging further details, but Eisenberg told Variety July 11 that the temporary Oz pact included a tiering tour proposal which would allow for reductions "between 35 percent and 50 percent" in actors salaries "in some categories."

Of the mentioned "other variables" which will dictate actors' salaries on road shows, one will surely be the somewhat subjective matter of whether the property in question is a smash (along the lines of Hairspray) or a hit of a somewhat softer variety.

Increased producer contributions to the Equity health fund were vitally important to the union going into the talks. League producers contribute a certain dollar amount a week per actor into the union's health care plan. With fewer actors working on the road in recent years, less money has gone into the pot. Last year, the plan ran at a $16 million deficit. This forced Equity to change its eligibility requirements in October 2003. Where a member once had to log in 10 weeks of work annually to quality for a year's coverage, that actor must now accumulate 20 weeks a year, or 12 weeks a year for six months coverage.

An Equity spokesperson could not say what "meaningful increases" to the fund would represent in dollar amounts, or if the "stabilization" of the fund meant getting accounts in the black. However, the work-weeks required for benefits will remain at current levels for the time being.

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