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SAG, AFTRA wrap up talks until January

Announcement made 9 days after negotiations on film-TV contract

Union actors will have to wait until next year for a new deal.

SAG and AFTRA, which started negotiations Dec. 6 with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, said Thursday afternoon that they were recessing until Jan. 5.

Announcement came after nine days of negotiations on the film-TV contract, which expires June 30. Negotiators had hoped to wrap up a deal by this weekend but found themselves running out of time with holiday vacations approaching.

Though the substance of the talks remains under a news blackout, knowledgeable sources said negotiators had achieved progress on several issues this week. Leaders of SAG and AFTRA had hoped that concluding a deal before the end of the year would create the benefit of a premium attached in exchange for avoiding the uncertainty derived from an unsettled contract situation.

SAG and AFTRA placed an emphasis on increased residuals and on boosting health care and contributions from producers, improved TV agreements and protections for background and stunt performers. In negotiations this fall, the Directors Guild and Writers Guild achieved no progress on the prickly issue of increasing their members’ cut from the explosive DVD business; the sister guilds opted instead for increases of about $60 million each in three-year deals, with about two-thirds of those gains coming in health plan contributions.

Both SAG and the AMPTP issued statements Thursday that gave little indication of whether progress has been achieved. “We came to the negotiating table ready to bargain a fair deal for our members and to keep the industry working, and we will continue working towards that goal when we resume talks after the holidays,” said SAG chief exec Bob Pisano, who serves with AFTRA national exec director Greg Hessinger as chief negotiator for the unions.

We look forward to returning from the holidays to negotiate a conclusion to a fair and equitable contract,” said AMPTP prexy Nick Counter. “We will use this time productively, further studying the proposals and data of the numerous complex issues before us.”

Meanwhile, SAG members Scott Wilson and Tom Bower have filed a conflict-of-interest suit to oust Pisano from that position due to his posts as an advisory board member of pay TV outfit Cinema Entertainment Group and his seat on the board of DVD rental outfit Netflix. SAG’s board has backed Pisano; U.S. District Court Judge R. Klaussner has not yet ruled in the case.

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