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Equity, League Argue Per Diems, LORT Transfers

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Actors' Equity Association and the League of American Theatres and Producers disagreed at length last week over actors' value in LORT transfers to Broadway, and in proper per-diem funds for production-contract tours.

The two sides ended their fifth month of bargaining a new production contract with the union expressing concern about non-production-pact shows that move to Broadway. The most common are shows that begin in theatres operating under League of Resident Theatres (LORT) contracts. Such shows "function as a workshop or tryout for the final Broadway show," according to the production-pact talks report on Equity's website.

The union has argued that actors contribute to the entire creative process of such shows' development, and should be fairly paid for that.

"Initially, Equity sought compensation based on a retroactive bonus formula," the website noted. But the union refined its stand and proposed that actors receive a percentage of the show's gross income "to share as royalties."

The league responded by rejecting Equity's stand, "interpreting the extra monies as 'baggage' that would encumber the development project," the website said. Producers added that actors shouldn't receive "retroactive pay. The producers feel that actors make a financial gain from their involvement with a show before investors, since they jump up in salary (to a production contract) before the investors see any return."

The producers also argued that adding actors to the gross-income sharing mix will scare away investors.

Touring Per Diems

The union and producers jousted over touring per diems with two separate surveys. Producers offered a study comparing 1999 IRS-designated hotel rates to hotel price averages from recent production-pact tours. The figures showed hotel rates often below the current per-diem allowance, meaning actors are overcompensated. As a result, producers proposed a freeze on the current per diem, with "slight increments" for select high-rate cities, and small increases in each year of a new contract.

Equity countered with a survey showing expenses "higher than ever" on tour, particularly in major metro areas where actors must commute. The union also argued that affordable hotels and short-term apartments are difficult to find.

The union has offered two proposals for actor relief: the first a low- and high-city per diem, followed by a modification based on official housing choices. The league rejected both.

The two sides have agreed to expand talks into October, meeting on four days through Tues., Oct. 10.

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