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SAG taps negotiating team

Daniels, 12 activists constitute contract committee

The Screen Actors Guild’s national board has tapped president William Daniels and a dozen other activist members for its negotiating committee handling upcoming film-TV contract talks with studios and nets.

In addition to Daniels, the group has eight other Los Angeles reps, including wages and working conditions committee chief Tom LaGrua, national recording secretary Karen Austin, board members George Coe, Anne-Marie Johnson, Armin Shimerman, Rick Barker and Wil Wheaton, and Tess Harper.

New York members are Jim Murtaugh, 12th VP Larry Keith and Avis Boone; regional branch rep is fifth VP Mary Seibel from Chicago.

SAG’s contract expires July 1, but it has yet to schedule a start date for negotiations. Its leaders have said that SAG would be able to start talks late next month but only on issues not related to residuals, because of problems with delivery of complete data from the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. The AMPTP has claimed it has delivered the data, which was promised as part of SAG’s 1998 contract settlement.

Switching teams

Shimerman disclosed that he has stepped down as co-chair of SAG’s agent relations committee, which has been bargaining with the Assn. of Talent Agents and the National Assn. of Talent Representatives over a new operating agreement. Shimerman, who has also been serving as a vice chair of the wages and working conditions panel, cited the additional demands on his time created by being named to the film-TV negotiating committee as the reason for departing the agent committee.

Coe remains as co-chair on the agency panel, which indicated last month it wanted to resume negotiations with the ATA and NATR but has yet to give a timetable. The operating agreement expired in October, triggering a 15-month termination phase, and negotiations over a revamped agreement collapsed in November.

Agent issue outstanding

Much of Monday’s meeting of SAG’s board involved a discussion of the agency situation with members deciding they need to conduct further investigation on the issue. The key question remains SAG’s reluctance to approve a new agreement that would loosen financial-interest restrictions on agents, even with a dozen proposed safeguards against potential conflicts of interest.

The ATA expressed disappointment over Shimerman’s move. “He was a constructive voice and a proponent for open dialogue during the negotiation process,” it said. “While keeping the actor’s interests as his highest priority, Armin tried hard to understand and solve the problems of the agency business in the 21st Century. His guidance and advice will be missed.”

Former SAG prexy Richard Masur has criticized Daniels for failing to make a deal with the agents. Because a new agreement would change SAG’s constitution, it have to receive the endorsement of SAG’s membership in a vote.

SAG’s board also approved 10 alternates for the negotiating team with six Los Angeles members: 11th VP David Jolliffe, Jeff Austin, board member Alan Blumenfeld, Russell McConnell, Kent McCord and Kathy Trageser. New York alternates are David Margolies, Kevin O’Rourke and Alice Spivak, while regional branch rep is board member Ed Vasgersian of San Francisco.

The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which negotiates jointly with SAG on the film-TV contract, is scheduled to begin the selection of its reps for the negotiating team this week.

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