American Federation of Television & Radio Artists prexy Shelby Scott has urged members to back off from the idea that a summer strike is cast in concrete.
“Those who suggest that a strike is inevitable are uninformed, irresponsible or both,” Scott said this week in a message to members. “Our best course now is to place our undivided focus on preparing to achieve real contractual gains for our working members at the bargaining table. Let’s not poison the well before we even get started.”
SAG prexy William Daniels has issued similar admonitions. SAG and AFTRA, which face a June 30 contract expiration, have yet to set a start date for negotiating with studios and nets over the pact, which covers motion pictures and primetime network series. Fears of strikes by actors and the Writers Guild of America, which has a May 2 expiration for its contract, have accelerated film and TV production.
However, Scott said it was “impossible” to say whether SAG and AFTRA will settle if the WGA reaches a deal.
In a move to show solidarity with SAG, Scott also praised the joint negotiating team, which has 13 members from each org, saying she was “truly excited” over the caliber of the panel. She made no mention of the ongoing rift between the two performers unions, which flared in January after AFTRA’s national board turned down SAG’s request to reduce the number of AFTRA reps from 13 to four to reflect the far smaller contribution of AFTRA performers under the contract.
Scott said the upcoming negotiation will have a major influence on AFTRA’s other contracts, including the main part of its network code contract for primetime dramatic programming on Fox, soap operas, gameshows, talkshows and reality programs. The “net code” pact, AFTRA’s largest, expires Nov. 15.
AFTRA also said it has tapped Gotham local exec director Stephen Burrow as its chief negotiator for the upcoming negotiations.