Home Entertainment News How Would a SAG-AFTRA Strike Affect The United Kingdom’s Film Industry?

How Would a SAG-AFTRA Strike Affect The United Kingdom’s Film Industry?


Negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood’s collective bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), are at a critical stage. Concerns arise about a strike. This article explores the possible effects of a SAG-AFTRA strike on the U.K. entertainment business and discusses the response of British actors’ union Equity to this situation.

If you ask individuals in the U.K. industry about current affairs, many will describe it as frustratingly sluggish. Despite a supposed boom period for production, the U.S. writer’s strike and the cost of living crisis place significant pressure on unscripted and scripted projects.

As the clock ticks away on negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP, the general question is whether the situation is about to worsen. Several British actors have expressed their need for guidance from Equity, the local actors’ union. This is likely because the details are being worked out in real time. Equity’s General Secretary, Paul W. Fleming, has been engaging in discussions with SAG-AFTRA in Los Angeles, and he is optimistic about the negotiations with the AMPTP. Fleming also visits New York to meet with the theater union Actors’ Equity.

In a video update to SAG-AFTRA members on June 23, President Fran Drescher expressed confidence, stating, “We’re standing strong, and we’re going to achieve a seminal deal.” Although the union’s contract is set to expire on June 30, negotiations may extend beyond that date to reach an agreement and avert strike action.

Fleming regularly communicates with his American counterparts and emphasizes the importance of supporting sister unions in the United States, including the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA. He aims to ensure that their messages have the highest chance of success. With 47,000 members, including actors, singers, dancers, designers, directors, stage managers, and voice artists, Equity’s influence has grown alongside the rising prominence of British talent in Hollywood.

Various issues affecting American performers resonate strongly within the U.K. entertainment industry. Artificial intelligence and self-taped auditions have been prevalent in Britain. Fleming explains, “We strongly advocate for fair remuneration and protect our members’ work and exploitation in new media.”

How does Equity advise its members during a U.S. strike? Fleming assures that there will be a thorough conversation between Equity and SAG-AFTRA to ensure their positions are not undermined. If talks head south this week and a strike is triggered, Equity will recommend its members pause all work governed by SAG-AFTRA contracts. However, a gray area arises when performers are both Equity and SAG-AFTRA members and have non-SAG-AFTRA contracts with struck companies such as Warner Bros. Discovery or Netflix.

The Writers Guild of Great Britain has already provided emergency advice to its members in this regard. Existing writActorsntinue, but new work is discouraged. However, actors’ work is one working while others sacrifice their livelihoods. The pressure for solidarity may be significant, even for those who are not SAG-AFTRA members.

An established European actor, a member of both SAG-AFTRA and Equity, alludes to the complexities faced during the writer’s strike. They mention that during that time, productions still running had to discreetly bring in actors through the back door due to legal restrictions on their participation. This situation was uncomfortable and awkward.

Max Rumney, Deputy CEO and Director of Business Affairs for British producers’ trade organization Pact acknowledge that an actor’s strike could have more vast repercussions than a writer’s strike. While a U.S. studio film or TV show shooting in the U.K. may face significant challenges, local British broadcasters and independent films should be able to continue as they typically do not employ SAG-AFTRA actors. However, complications may arise for actors who are members of both Equity and SAG-AFTRA.

The question of SAG-AFTRA’s Global Rule One (GR1) waiver for U.K. producers is another point of discussion. This waiver allows the use of guild actors for local productions while exempting them from the requirement to work under a union contract globally. The strike order is expected to include overseas displays under the Codified Basic Agreement and Television Agreement, along with work done under a GR-1 memorandum of agreement. However, further clarification from SAG-AFTRA is needed.

Regarding Equity’s ability to call a strike in the U.K., the union cannot strike in solidarity as it operates independently in a different jurisdiction. Nonetheless, it is preparing for discussions with Pact, the producers’ organization, and negotiations for the all-important TV contract, which also applies to streaming and was recently updated in 2021. While strike mandates are more challenging in the United Kingdom, Fleming states they are prepared to take such necessary measures.

Pact’s Rumney emphasizes the collaborative relationship between the producers’ organization and Equity. The agreements in the U.K. operate differently from those in the U.S., based on distinct assumptions.

In a challenging economic climate, both parties may need to consider whether the U.K. industry would be willing to strike. Given the current cost of production and materials, engaging people has become significantly more complicated. However, Fleming encourages members to consider the broader perspective and the long-term implications of the issues, including AI, fair compensation, the industrial relations framework, distribution, and secondary payments. He emphasizes the importance of achieving the best possible deals, which rely on SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild negotiations, even though the process can be painful.

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