Informal sessions with the AMPTP continues in 'good faith'

The Screen Actors Guild’s top officer has remained committed to holding early informal contract talks with studios and networks despite SAG’s unresolved negotiations with talent agents.

“We intend to hold exploratory meetings with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers as soon as we can work out the schedules,” William Daniels said Friday during an interview. “We want to assure that we negotiate in good faith rather than waiting until the last moment.”

The AMPTP formally announced two weeks ago that it was ready to begin conducting negotiations with the Writers Guild of America, SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. The WGA’s basic TV-film agreement expires May 1 while the current SAG/AFTRA pact concludes June 30.

Daniels said the lack of a resolution to SAG’s negotiations with the Assn. of Talent Agents would not prevent the union from moving ahead on working out a framework for negotiations with the AMPTP. The SAG-ATA talks collapsed last week, and no new talks are expected to occur until next month at the earliest.

Daniels has contended for several months that a SAG/AFTRA strike next year is not inevitable, despite the widespread concern that back-to-back strikes are likely. Studios and producers have started stockpiling films and TV programs in order to better survive a work stoppage of several months, a tactic that became increasingly popular while SAG and AFTRA staged a six-month strike against the ad industry.

Daniels has also issued a “thank you” via the SAG Web site for the support the union received during the strike, which ended Oct. 30.

“Our tremendous win could not have been accomplished without a solid network of friends across the country and throughout the world,” he wrote. “Thanks again for everything you did for us since May 1st. We are a stronger, better union because of you.”

In a related development, SAG activists have announced they will join informational pickets this week by Teamsters Local 399 against Walt Disney Co. over Disney’s refusal to sign a contract with the location managers unit of the local. SAG’s Los Angeles chief exec Leonard Chassman, in his role as prexy of the Hollywood Entertainment Council, has told Disney that its stance is “highly discriminatory” since all other major studios have signed contracts with the location managers unit.

Steve Dayan, business agent for the 425 location managers repped by the local, said SAG activists have started to improve SAG’s image among other unions. “SAG members have told us that they were very appreciative of the help the Teamsters gave them during their strike,” he added. “They want to show that they will support other unions who support them.”

Pickets will begin Wednesday at Disney corporate headquarters in Burbank and at the El Capitan and Pantages Theaters in Hollywood, with the latter pair targeted due to Disney productions at those locations. The Teamsters will also call for members to boycott Disney programming and merchandise.

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