Actors will likely see a 14.7 percent raise in salaries as well as other benefits over the course of the new production contract that was reached between Equity and Broadway producers on Oct. 11. The tentative four-year production contract for actors appearing on Broadway and National Tours, must now be ratified by constituents from both sides of the bargaining issue. Once ratified, the terms of the contract are retroactive to June, when the last contract expired.
Both sides appear happy with the deal and Equity cites major changes benefiting its membership. Equity and the League have agreed to "establish a 401K plan for actors working under the contract with a 3 percent employer contribution." These contributions will go to a separate fund beginning in the second year of the agreement, with employers contribute 3 percent of an actors' contractual salary up to a $5,500 cap.
In addition to the employer contributions and the resulting tax deferrals, producers' payments for actors' health coverage will now be augmented using monies from the "Tax Relief Fund." Generated by a 4.5 percent New York City tax on box office receipts, a portion of the fund will be "used to lower producers' costs for Equity's health plan. Another portion of the fund will be used at the discretion of the joint Equity-League Trustees to offset the rising cost of health benefits."
The production contract talks were the longest in Equity history, beginning May 4 and going through Oct. 11. By comparison, the SAG/AFTRA commercial strike—which continues to be the longest entertainment strike in history—began on May 1.
In a joint statement, both groups proclaimed the new contract was a "fair deal." Equity announced that it will submit the new contract to its governing council. The council reviews terms for recommendation to Equity's membership, which will participate in a mail referendum. For its part, the League will submit the contract terms to its executive committee, comprising Broadway producers, theatre owners and road presenters. Disney (Buena Vista Theatrical Ventures) was part of the coordinated bargaining process and has "finalized its contract with Equity along similar terms." Disney's separate Equity contract covers Aida, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast.
Equity says that while it sought to reduce injuries by eliminating raked (inclined) stages, "producers disputed the facts and refuted Equity's arguments for artistic reasons." A joint committee will now "study raked stages and stage resiliency and closely monitor injury reports." In other areas, some 70 new rules have been proposed in the new contract covering "publicity and promotional activity and various touring provisions." Details will be made available in the future. The contract ratification process may take several weeks.
Equity and the League said that cast members from Broadway shows, producers, stage managers and dance captains, designers, general managers as well as guest speakers participated in the talks, which were led by League representative Bernard Plum, of Proskauer Rose, LLP, and Equity executive director Alan Eisenberg.
-- By Murdoch McBride