Longer talks bring hope in strike

Sources stress negotiations at delicate stage

Negotiators for striking actors and advertisers, meeting for the eighth consecutive day Monday, continued to hammer out details of a possible settlement to the five-month work stoppage and will meet again today.

Reps for both sides have ramped up their workload with marathon weekend bargaining spilling over to 1 a.m. Monday, giving rise to cautious hopes that a deal can be worked out this week. Negotiations resumed at 8 a.m. in Gotham and did not break off until around 9 p.m.

Negotiators continued to decline official comment, as they have since resuming this round of talks on Sept. 13. But sources close to the talks said a deal appears within reach this week, although they stress that the negotiations are at a delicate stage and could still collapse.

“The longer they sit, the better the chances become that they can make a deal,” one said. “But the situation also looks like it’s very fluid.”

Consensus among trackers is that advertisers will back off their demand to eliminate residuals for network TV ads if a settlement is reached. Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, who have insisted the proposal represented a rollback, believe that any deal without so-called Class A residuals would be turned down by members in a ratification vote.

Other key issues include payments for cable and Internet ads and creation of a monitoring system.

Activists continued their picket Monday outside the talks at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

In Los Angeles, about 200 strikers demonstrated outside Grey Advertising’s Wilshire Boulevard offices over its use of non-union actors. High-profile members attending included Shelley Berman, Hector Elizondo and Avery Schreiber.

Involvement crucial

“We have to keep at this in order to get the public to understand what’s really going on in this strike,” said Berman. “It’s important for everyone in the union to be involved.”

Los Angeles activists plan to picket at McCann-Erickson’s offices today.

Advertisers have been forced to either shoot commercials with non-union actors, produce spots without actors or bring back old ads. Commercial producers insist overall activity remains at pre-strike levels, a contention disputed by the unions.

“Production has really been hopping for the past two months,” said Matthew Miller, prexy of the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers. “People who do production have stopped waiting for the strike to end.”

But Miller added that if a deal is reached, advertisers and ad agencies would probably be eager to start working under its terms through interim agreements prior to a ratification vote. “I don’t see where advertisers would have a problem using interim agreements under those conditions,” he said.

The unions claim to have signed close to 2,000 interim agreements that are based on the SAG/AFTRA offers at negotiations prior to the strike. But nearly all of those are with smaller and midsized agencies and advertisers.

The strike is entering its 149th day, five short of matching the record for longest work stoppage in Hollywood history, set in 1988 by the Writers Guild of America.

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