SAG won’t talk ’til May

Thesps expected to echo scribes' proposal

Though it has made no official decision yet, the Screen Actors Guild signaled it will wait until May to start film-TV contract negotiations with studios and networks.

SAG’s strategy will leave next month open for the Writers Guild of America to resume its suspended talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. WGA negotiations broke off March 1 with leaders only saying they will likely resume in April, a few weeks before the contract expires May 2.

“We are likely to defer to the WGA at this point, if only because our contract expiration is not until June 30,” SAG spokesman Greg Krizman said.

SAG leaders had indicated earlier this year that they could be ready for talks as early as this month but had also warned that the AMPTP’s delays in delivering promised residuals data could hold back the process of hammering out a final contract proposal. SAG sources have indicated recently, however, that the key reason for holding off on setting a start date is the desire to avoid colliding with the WGA talks.

Another strategy

In addition, many hard-liners have long supported waiting until after the WGA expiration date for starting the SAG contract talks. Although companies favor negotiations as early as possible, many union activists oppose that approach on grounds that it takes away leverage by removing the threat of a strike.

SAG’s last official move on prepping for talks came nearly a month ago, when it tapped former WGA West exec director Brian Walton as chief negotiator (Daily Variety, Feb. 23). Walton’s appointment could have made it easier for the two orgs to conduct joint or simultaneous negotiations with the AMPTP, but those options appear to have been discarded for now.

Echoing WGA proposal

SAG’s contract proposal is widely expected to follow along the lines of the WGA’s by seeking improvements in residual formulas for foreign, video/DVD, cable, pay TV and Fox Broadcasting along with Internet jurisdiction.

SAG, which will negotiate jointly with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, has also been under internal pressure to toughen up “scope” language to assure that members working in foreign markets are covered by SAG contracts.

Companies ready to go

As for the AMPTP, it has insisted since last October that it has been ready to start talks with the WGA, SAG and AFTRA at any time. The actors’ unions held an informal meeting with company CEOs in December to lay out basic positions, but the two sides have not met face to face since.

The initial SAG/AFTRA proposal must first be approved by the joint boards of the two orgs, but that meeting has not yet been set. SAG and AFTRA will each send 13 members to the negotiations, led by SAG prexy William Daniels and AFTRA prexy Shelby Scott.

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