UTA Becomes First Major Agency to Restore Full Pay, Enacts Small Round of Layoffs

Hollywood may never look the same after the coronavirus pandemic, but a relic of the old world has been returned to one major Hollywood agency: full paychecks.

UTA has become the first of the big four to reinstate full salaries, after reducing compensation across the board this spring — a cost-cutting measure that many talent shops took to brace for the economic beating delivered by COVID-19.

In a Wednesday memo to staff, agency CEO Jeremy Zimmer said employees would return to full compensation by mid-September. In step with the announcement, the company enacted a round of layoffs affecting 50 employees across rank and department, some of them furloughed since March when nationwide shutdowns went into place.

The laid-off staff received severance and post-employment benefits for a limited period of time, another insider familiar with the company told Variety. Zimmer and UTA co-presidents Jay Sures and David Kramer will forgo compensation for the rest of 2020. UTA began paying reduced salaries on March 23.

Zimmer also teased the news that hourly employees — namely assistants — will be seeing “meaningful” increases in base pay. In July, UTA became the first agency to end a bitter stalemate with the Writers Guild of America over the latter’s new franchise agreement, which seeks to end the lucrative practice of packaging. The agency has agreed to cease packaging within two years, and has agreed to the WGA’s request to disclose financial details around deals they broker for writers (but only at the express consent of individual clients).

Read the full memo from Zimmer:

I have some very positive updates to share for most of our colleagues, as well as some additional news unfolding today that is more difficult.

First, the good news. Our industry is showing increasing signs of recovery and stability. Parts of our business have remained steady despite the impact of COVID-19 and, in some areas, we’ve performed stronger than expected. We’ve been able to manage through this period as well as we could have hoped—in great part because of the shared sacrifice you have made these past six months through the pay reductions. We know this has been a difficult time and I’m pleased to share that time is over.

Effective two weeks from now, on September 16, we will fully reinstate salaries for all of our colleagues. In addition, we are continuing to follow through on our commitment of meaningful increases in base pay for our assistants and hourly-compensated colleagues, building further on the increases we instituted several weeks ago. We will be sharing more details on that over the next 24 hours. While our overtime restrictions remain in effect, we will continue to review those policies too. And knowing how hard everyone continues to work under these unusual circumstances, we’ve decided to continue summer half-day Fridays through September 25.

Even with these positive developments, we have some sobering news. Our business is recovering, but the need remains to take a hard and honest look at the size and makeup of UTA—and make decisions that reflect what our business requires not just short term but for the foreseeable future. For that reason, today we are implementing a staff reduction that will affect about 50 of our colleagues. It’s always a difficult decision to make. The reductions will take place in several parts of our business and include both active and some furloughed colleagues. We are committed to doing our best by them with generous severance packages.

As for our other furloughed colleagues, we are not able to reinstate them at this time and, given the continued uncertainty, we can’t yet set any expectations about when that might happen. The most important thing we can do right now is continue to manage UTA carefully, deliberately and day-by-day. Tomorrow we’ll hold an All UTA meeting to discuss all this.

Although there are still uncertain times ahead, I am grateful for all we have accomplished together to bring us to this point. The successes we continue to achieve for clients are truly amazing. We have packaged, innovated, dreamed and sometimes simply willed into existence great and unique opportunities for artists across UTA.

We have shown up for each other, on every Zoom, day and night. The spirit of collaboration and teamwork is everywhere. Thanks for all your efforts, your faith and your commitment.

Jeremy

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