Despite WGA pact, SAG talks still shaky

Hollywood’s sigh of relief over the writers’ tentative deal with producers has obscured that other bump in the road.

While the possibility of an actors strike has lessened considerably, there’s still a ways to go before the biz can truly relax.

Another Strike Watch starts May 15 when contract talks open with the Screen Actors Guild, only seven weeks before the expiration date.

The industry bathed in a brief burst of euphoria after the May 4 announcement of the Writers Guild of America’s three-year agreement calling for a $41 million pay hike.

The WGA West board and the WGA East Council unanimously endorsed the deal on May 8, the same day that producers’ chief negotiator Nick Counter declared chances were better than 50-50 of a SAG deal before the June 30 deadline.

Counter, who was also lead negotiator at the writers’ talks, said that completion of the WGA agreement should help at the upcoming round in areas where there are similarities between the contracts.

SAG prexy William Daniels has also continued to sound hopeful, declaring that the WGA deal may be “a stepping-stone.”

But the statements come a year after SAG launched a bitter strike against advertisers that lasted six months. It’s highly likely that SAG and AFTRA will take the negotiations down to the wire, particularly after the WGA talks went three days beyond the contract’s expiration.

The actors unions have indicated that their key issue will be seeking an increase in minimum rates along with hikes in residuals, Internet jurisdiction and improved language on diversity and coverage of foreign shoots. But the proposal’s numerical details remain under wraps.

“Salary compression” issues will probably be key. SAG and AFTRA leaders have complained that many regularly employed “middle class” actors have seen salaries decline to the minimum plus 10% for agent commission fees; current principal performers’ minimums are $617 per day and $2,142 per week.

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