SAG-AFTRA Health Plan Extends Coverage for Members Affected by Writers Strike

The SAG-AFTRA health plan trustees have decided to provide relief to the members who have lost work opportunities due to the ongoing writers strike. The trustees will extend the health coverage by one quarter for those who would otherwise lose it on October 1.

Writers Strike Enters Fifth Month

The writers strike, which started on May 2, has been one of the longest and most disruptive labor disputes in Hollywood history. The Writers Guild of America (WGA), which represents about 11,500 writers, is demanding better pay, residuals, and working conditions from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the major studios and production companies.

SAG-AFTRA Health Plan Extends Coverage for Members Affected by Writers Strike
SAG-AFTRA Health Plan Extends Coverage for Members Affected by Writers Strike

The main issues of contention are the compensation for streaming services, the use of artificial intelligence, and the inclusion and diversity policies. The strike has halted the production of many TV shows and movies, affecting not only the writers but also the actors, directors, crew members, and other workers in the industry.

Actors Join the Strike

On July 14, the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), which represents about 160,000 actors, also went on strike against the AMPTP. The actors are seeking similar improvements in their contracts as the writers, as well as more protection from harassment, discrimination, and abuse.

The actors strike has added more pressure on the AMPTP to resume negotiations with both unions. However, so far, there has been little progress in reaching a deal. The AMPTP has accused the unions of making unreasonable and unrealistic demands, while the unions have accused the AMPTP of being greedy and unfair.

Health Plan Trustees Offer Support

In the midst of this stalemate, the trustees of the SAG-AFTRA health plan have unanimously agreed to extend health coverage to members who have lost out on work opportunities in May and June because of the writers strike. The trustees will extend coverage by one calendar quarter for qualified participants who would otherwise lose coverage on October 1.

Qualified participants must be losing earnings-based or days-based coverage on October 1 and have at least $22,000 in reported earnings (or 85 alternative days) from July 1 2022 through June 30 2023. These reduced requirements apply only to continuation of existing active coverage and reflect a reduction that accounts for lesser earnings opportunities during May and June.

“This will come as a great relief to our members,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher. “I think it’s important that we never forget that we are in a contract negotiation with the AMPTP and under no circumstances should the health and well-being of members and their families ever be weaponised against them because of this strike.”

Hope for a Resolution

The extension of health coverage by the SAG-AFTRA health plan is a welcome gesture of solidarity and support for the members who are suffering from the strike. However, it is not a permanent solution. The only way to end the strike is to reach a fair and equitable agreement with the AMPTP that respects the rights and interests of both writers and actors.

The WGA and the AMPTP have recently resumed talks after a long hiatus, raising some hope for a breakthrough. However, there is still no sign of communication between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP. The longer the strike lasts, the more damage it will cause to the entertainment industry and its workers.

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