Federal mediators are unable to restart talks

Gap between actors, advertisers signals possible long work stoppage

Federal mediators have failed in efforts to restart negotiations to avert next Monday’s planned strike by union actors against the advertising industry.

Representatives from the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service contacted both sides this week but were unable to convince negotiators to shift their positions. The development underscores the significant differences in positions between actors and advertisers, even after six weeks at the bargaining table, and could be a signal that the work stoppage may continue for a prolonged period.

Mediators first came into the negotiations on April 13, a day before the talks collapsed. In their efforts this week, the mediators asked the actors what issues would need to be on the table for formal talks to resume.

Pay-per-play key

Negotiators for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists told the mediators that advertisers would need to drop their demand for replacing the “pay per play” system in network television with a flat-rate buyout along with agreeing to negotiate the extension of pay-per-play into cable TV residuals. Actors have called the proposed change in network payments a rollback.

A SAG rep said the mediators found that those positions were unacceptable to advertisers, repped by the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies and the Assn. of National Advertisers.

If the thesps do strike, it will rep the first work stoppage by union actors since an 18-day strike in 1988 over commercials. Advertisers have vowed to continue business as usual using nonunion talent and union members who defy their leaders.

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