Is the SABC firing the Generations cast?

2014-08-18 14:13

Cape Town – The South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) tells Channel24 that the SABC's striking Generations actors are going about it the wrong way.

The Generations production was shut down again last week – the second time in 10 months – after the soap’s cast went on strike. The cast demands better and longer contracts and that the SABC pay them for "royalties" or past rebroadcasts of the shows and overseas sales of the show.

The lucrative Generations is the biggest TV soap in South Africa and also the most watched programme in the country, pulling an average audience of 7.5 million viewers on weeknights and eclipsing anything else in terms of ratings in the local TV industry for the past 20 years and counting.

The SABC threatened to fire all of the striking Generations actors on Monday, after having given them a second ultimatum to show up for filming on Monday or all be fired.

SAGA: Actors are freelance independent contractors

Actors working on soaps like the SABC's Generations, 7de Laan, Isidingo and others are freelance independent contractors, a SAGA spokesperson told Channel24 over the weekend.

"This is the correct legal status of the actor. At Generations there's a group who think they have the right to strike and the SABC can't dismiss them. But they're under a contract like when you hire an electrician to fix your geyser. You pay him and he leaves.

"Generations actors are not protected under these labour laws – it’s a contractual agreement to come and do a certain service on a specific day, or for three months. If there's a dispute, then you go for arbitration, and that's the way they should go.

"The wrong approach is that actors 'work' for the SABC or M-Net – the term employees. The correct approach is, and it stands clearly in the SABC's standard contract given to all soap actors, that the SABC pays the production company who in turn pays the actors who also receive this contract.

"In that contract is specifies clearly in clause 36.4 that the performer is contracted exclusively on a freelance basis for the purpose of fulfilling the specific function set out above. On termination of this agreement the performer shall have no right to claim employment by the producer in any capacity.

"The actor is a freelancer – he is not employed by the SABC. And when the contract has run out there is no promise of a continuation of this contract at all. He is an independent contractor.And actors like it because it means you're working for yourself.

"You're self-employed. You can work for the SABC and when you're done with your scenes you at Generations or 7de Laan you can go and do other work – voice work, adverts – because you're working for yourself". That is the correct legal status of the actor.

"There's an incorrect school of thought that soap actors are employed by the SABC or M-Net. M-Net contracts also clearly states: you're independent; you're on your own. Unfortunately there's a group of South African actors who don't yet understand fully what these contracts really mean."

'The SABC needs to be helped to solve the problem'

Generations actors are also unhappy about possible back payments and future payments for rebroadcasts as well as international sales of the show to other countries and broadcasters which they say they have not received.

"Clause 7 of the SABC contract makes provision for commercial exploitation and a percentage that should be divided among the actors. And the SABC did start paying, saying here is your cut for exploitation and sales of this property into Africa," says the SAGA spokesperson.

"The Generations actors are going about it the wrong way. They're approaching it as a labour matter, as employees, which they are not.

"The moment they realise and approach it from the right way, from the correct position given their status as independent contractors and actors, then things will fall in place," says the SAGA spokesperson.

"The SABC must pay them for commercial exploitation. It's just a difficult calculation to do, but you need to pay the actors, since you have to bear in mind what were they paid at the time.

"It takes time and the SABC needs to be helped to solve the problem. Striking is the wrong way to go," says the SAGA spokesperson.

"Nobody really bothered in the past with the money from international sales and repeat fees, but actors are becoming more and more aware of their rights. But it is in the contracts, you must only demand in terms of the contract, where is my cut? The SABC did start paying the Isidingo and Generations actors.

"At the moment SAGA still questions it and says give us the full explanation of how did you calculate this. So, we're going about it the right way, saying we want more information, before we can say yes the process is fair or not. But the money is forthcoming.

"Actors in South Africa are not paid badly. Generations actors, in lieu of the show having been on for so long, are some of the best paid soap actors in our country," says the SAGA spokesperson.

"As actors we don't have a bad deal.”

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