July may burn SAG, producers

Feature-primetime deal expires June 30th

With SAG unlikely to make a deal in the next two weeks, both sides will move on to tricky turf as of July 1, the day after the guild’s current feature-primetime deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers expires.

As of July 1, changes for thesps include the following:

  • The no-strike no-lockout clause is no longer in effect.

  • The union security clause, requiring actors to be under guild jurisdiction, is no longer in effect.

  • The grievance and arbitration requirements are suspended, meaning that grievances that are filed can’t be arbitrated until a new deal’s signed.

Biz insiders say the lack of grievance and arbitration coverage is by far the most significant issue for thesps during a period when there is no guild contract in force.

Although there are no explicit rules governing how the studios and guild should function after a contract expires without the guild going on strike, tradition in union negotiations dictates that SAG actors will continue to work under terms and conditions of the expired contract — on those productions whose studios have decided to take their chances and not close down amid the uncertainty.

Though neither side has issued any public comment about the negotiations since the verbal sparring last week, those close to the talks have signaled that a resolution is at least a few more weeks away.

SAG has not taken a strike authorization vote, which would require 75% approval and probably a few weeks to get ballots out to 120,000 members. AMPTP companies have not given any sign that they are moving toward locking the actors out, even though such a step would be permissible once the contract expires. In addition, the AMPTP — the negotiation arm for studios and networks — has not yet made its “last, best and final” offer.

It’s not uncommon for unions to continue negotiations beyond contract deadlines. SAG went four days past the contract deadline in 2001 before making a deal, and the WGA went five months past expiration in 2004 before it finally reach a tentative deal.

Earlier this year, the WGA East closed deals for ABC and CBS news employees more than two years after its old deals expired.

Talks between SAG and the AMPTP were in their 32nd day Tuesday with progress remaining elusive. Meanwhile, SAG has been focused on a campaign against the primetime contract reached by rival union AFTRA, which has some 44,000 overlapping members with SAG.

Results of AFTRA’s ratification vote are expected to be announced July 7 or soon thereafter, which makes the week after the Independence Day holiday a pivotal time in the guild talks. Sentiment in the biz is that SAG will lose much of its bargaining leverage if the AFTRA deal is approved by members.

AFTRA’s leaders have defended the deal — pointing to gains in salary minimums and new media — and characterized SAG as unrealistic in demanding more than the DGA, WGA and AFTRA achieved in their negotiations.

SAG, in a message to the 44,000 members who belong to both unions, has continued to blast away.

“AFTRA’s tentative deal — reached on its own under an artificial deadline six weeks before the conclusion of the contract — achieves few if any real gains for actors,” SAG said.

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