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US Actors Union Ratifies Contract, Officially Ending 118-Day Strike

This agreement marks the conclusion of negotiations that led to a tentative deal reached in November.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (Sag-Aftra) has formally ratified its contract with Hollywood studios, officially bringing an end to the 118-day strike that began on July 14. The union announced that 78% of its members voted in favour of the multi-year contract, with a 38% turnout.

This agreement marks the conclusion of negotiations that led to a tentative deal reached in November, allowing actors to resume work even before the formal ratification. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), representing major studios like Netflix and Walt Disney, expressed satisfaction, stating that “the industry and the jobs it supports will be able to return in full force.”

Key provisions of the contract include an immediate 11% pay increase for background actors, a $40 million residual bonus for performers contributing to successful streaming series or films, and protections against the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry. The AI protections mandate “informed consent and fair compensation” for any living or deceased performer involved.

Additionally, the agreement introduces new standards for makeup and hairstyling, emphasising experts for performers with diverse hair textures and skin types. Notably, it also requires the hiring of intimacy coordinators for scenes involving sex and nudity, a groundbreaking inclusion in Hollywood contracts.

Fran Drescher, the president of Sag-Aftra, hailed the agreement, stating, “This is a golden age for Sag-Aftra, and our union has never been more powerful.” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief negotiator, acknowledged that while the deal might not be perfect, it includes “a lot of really important gains” that he is proud of.

The 118-day strike, the longest in the union’s 90-year history, impacted the entertainment industry significantly, disrupting major films and TV shows. The combination of the actors’ and writers’ strikes is estimated to have cost the California economy over $6.5 billion. The resolution brings relief to both the industry and its workforce, allowing a return to normalcy after months of uncertainty.

Kiki Garba