Slow-Going Equity Production Contract Talks May Bear Fruit in August

News   Slow-Going Equity Production Contract Talks May Bear Fruit in August Actors' Equity expects some kind of development within the next few weeks with the 2000 Production Contract talks that are currently taking place between the union and the League of American Theatres and Producers. Production Contract negotiations are typically drawn out and this round is no exception: the talks began on May 4 and are scheduled right through the end of August. They may even take longer to complete.

Actors' Equity expects some kind of development within the next few weeks with the 2000 Production Contract talks that are currently taking place between the union and the League of American Theatres and Producers. Production Contract negotiations are typically drawn out and this round is no exception: the talks began on May 4 and are scheduled right through the end of August. They may even take longer to complete.

Part of the reason for the slow going is the comprehensive nature of the contract. According to Actors' Equity, the Production Contract covers Broadway shows, national and international tours, bus and truck tours and bus and truck split week tours. It is also used for touring productions at large performing arts centers such as the Kennedy Center.

The Production Contract is used by both commercial and not-for-profit producers; limited or open-ended runs; musical and dramatic productions; and is the only contract with provisions allowing non-resident alien performers to work in the United States.

Equity's Production Contract is separately negotiated with the League, the Walt Disney Company and SFX. While the degree to which Disney will be bound by the Production Contract remains uncertain, Equity reports that the "League team" includes representatives of SFX/PACE Theatrical and Disney's Buena Vista Theatricals. Another anomaly in the overarching Production Contract is the fact that Broadway and touring companies of Fosse are operating under a contract formerly negotiated with the now-dissolved Livent; that agreement was assumed by TCN Theatrical Group. TCN is not participating in the current Production Contract talks and its agreement with Equity expires on Sept. 24.

As reported earlier, Equity says it seeks to negotiate these issues: • Salary and per diem
• Safe and sanitary issues dealing with smoke and fog, raked stages, stage fighting and firearms
• Prohibition of a Monday performance after a five show weekend
• Compensation for actors in pre-Broadway or national tours that start in a LORT house
• Protection for actors when a show is downsized
• The problem of non-Equity tours
• Improvements in chorus increments and requirement for swings
• Revising the touring rules to reflect the realities of working on the road
• Personal days
• Cutback on all the free promotion
• Assistant stage managers may not act as understudy For its part in the Production Contract 2000 talks, the League seeks to negotiate these issues:
• Freeze rehearsal salary
• Reduce pension payments from 8 percent to 6 percent, thereby limiting future plan improvements and the amount of your pension upon retirement
• Reduction in health payments, thereby limiting future improvements, particularly family health coverage
• Pay rehearsal overtime in 15 minute segments, rather than hourly
• Eliminate extraordinary risk payment
• Reduce all billing penalty payments from one-eighth of contractual salary to $50
• The unfettered right to employ foreign actors and companies on our stages
• Eliminate Equity’s exclusive right to make chorus determinations
• Eliminate chorus parts payments
• Require a dance captain only at the producer’s discretion
• Schedule up to nine consecutive or non-consecutive layoff weeks without pay or per diem, and an additional four weeks layoff with two weeks notice and pay per diem only, for all productions
• Eliminate continuous employment during rehearsals, so that a hiatus or layoff of up to four weeks prior to the first paid public performance may be permitted without salary, benefits or per diem, provided the layoffs are agreed to in the actor's contract
• Expand producer rights in the area of filming and taping, including using tapes for unlimited promotional purposes
• Reduce payment for live television promotional appearances
• Making archival tapes for their own use and as a teaching tool
• Lower cast album payments
• Some reduced commercial payments
• Removing some breach penalties
• Unlimited use of footage on the Internet
• Reduction of payments to actors who appear on television in costume
• More promotion with no payment to the actors
• Permit closing and reopening a production in less than six weeks for any reason, which would include reducing cast size and salaries
• Apply bus and truck touring rules to all tours. This would allow six performances in three days
• Permit a seven performance week and a nine performance week without additional compensation if there is a full day off between the two weeks in any case where 25 percent of the schedule includes two week engagements
• Permit just cause termination in term contracts and chorus contract
• Six month riders
• Payments due an actor who is terminated while on a term contract or chorus contract with a six month rider shall be reduced by payments and benefits resulting from any 4As work. (Currently, only Equity work mitigates the payment)
• Allow "sweetening" recordings solely at the producer’s discretion
Eliminate the requirement that a stage manager be present at all rehearsals
• Change the 10 out of 12 rehearsal and performance hours away from point of organization and previews at point of organization from the current limitation of 10 out of the first 12 weeks to "any 60 days" between first paid public performance through opening at point of organization
• Modify the termination rule to give the producer the exclusive right to determine if an Actor is too ill to perform

At a glance, here are some of the key dates for these and other upcoming labor related issues:

• May 4: Production Contract talks started (Equity and League of American Theatres and Producers)
• Aug. 1 : Contract talks between Equity and Disney World (theme park) began
• Sept. 30: Equity contract with Disney World expires
• Sept. 18: Writers Guild (East and West) executive boards meet in Los Angeles concerning negotiations with producers over writers' Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA)
• Sept. 24: Equity pact for Broadway/tour productions of Fosse expires (TCN Theatrical Group)
• Oct. 1: Equity contract with Buena Vista Theatricals (Disney) expires

For further information visit actorsequity.org.

-- By Murdoch McBride