SAG-AFTRA says it’s achieved a “significant victory” in its battle with six so-called “signatory services” that front for non-union advertisers so that they can employ the union’s members in their TV commercials.
In May, the guild revoked the signatory status of six of the services after finding that they were not acting as true employers. The six services now have agreed to the union’s terms and “will now operate as bona fide employers when hiring our union performers,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement.
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“After months of negotiations over their revoked status, the companies have agreed to new requirements and will change the way they do business by performing employer functions,” the union said. “Effective Jan. 1, 2020, SAG-AFTRA has established strict new rules that guarantee six of the advertising industry’s largest signatory service companies – who had previously been revoked – will now operate as bona fide employers when hiring our union performers.”
The six services that are being reinstated are CMC/Forecast, CMS Productions, Talent Direct, Talent Solutions, Checks in Motion and Waving Cat. The guild has said that its investigation “was spurred by concerns that a number of companies in the commercials industry are providing ‘signatory services’ for a fee and falsely representing themselves as the employer of performers on commercials.” The guild’s campaign to reign in the signatory services is part of its ongoing efforts to combat non-union commercial productions.
SAG-AFTRA, however, has yet to come to terms with Executive Media Services, which back in August 2018 was the first service to have its permit to employ union actors yanked. At the time, EMS was the fourth-largest signatory service company signed to the union’s commercials contracts.
“The union must have direct relationships with employers so we can enforce the standards established in our contracts,” the guild said. “This includes: a safe work environment, timely and proper payment, health insurance and pension contributions, responsible use of performance, and protection against sexual harassment and workplace abuse.”
The new rules require that signatory services:
• Act only as employer where no advertising agency or any related company performs any employer functions.
• Secure casting agents in collaboration with the client.
• Negotiate union talent contracts and hire performers.
• Have an employee on set during all shoot days with the authority to address any issues that arise.
• Ensure proper and timely payment of all session fees and residuals, and resolve any claims promptly.
• Provide electronic documentation proving compliance within 30 days of production.
“Operating only under these strict new conditions, the six companies may continue as signatories. However, as before, SAG-AFTRA may revoke the signatory status of any company that fails to comply with any of the new requirements. We also expect, of course, that all third party signatories will only act as bona fide employers.”
The new requirements for third-party signatories “are a momentous step forward in achieving a core union mission: properly protecting our members working under the Commercials Contracts,” the guild said.