Unions in unison over contract proposal

Putting aside longstanding animosities, leaders of SAG and AFTRA are presenting a united front for a change.

In a joint announcement Thursday, the unions disclosed that following two days of meetings, their respective wages and working conditions committees have issued unanimous approval of a contract proposal to the majors.

The joint boards of SAG and AFTRA are set to meet Saturday to officially endorse the package — and with the proposal having been blessed without dissent, that approval’s expected to be a formality. Once the boards approve, negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers can be scheduled to start as early as next week.

The unions gave no details about the package, but SAG leaders have explicitly said they’ll seek improvements on the new-media gains chalked up earlier this year by the DGA and WGA. SAG’s also indicated it wants guarantees against actors appearing to endorse products without first being consulted.

The orgs also said AFTRA president Roberta Reardon and SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg participated in the sessions but added that they won’t release the names of other participants, who are also expected to sit on the joint bargaining committee.

Members of the 13-member SAG negotiating committee are believed to include Hollywood reps Jane Austin, Jeff Austin, George Coe, David Jolliffe, Anne-Marie Johnson, Kent McCord and JoBeth Williams. AFTRA’s negotiating committee is headed by treasurer Matt Kimbrough.

The show of unity by SAG and AFTRA contrasts sharply with the unions’ recent battles. The key dispute stems from SAG’s resentment over AFTRA signing cable deals at lower initial rates and AFTRA having half of the bargaining committee seats on the feature-primetime contract — even though AFTRA covers only three shows under the pact and no feature work.

In response to SAG’s attempt to institute block voting last year for its negotiating team, AFTRA threatened to negotiate separately — which led SAG to agree to withdraw the idea last month.

AFTRA’s insisted it has the right to sign the cable pacts, contending that doing so prevents shows from going non-union or being shot in Canada. And it’s accused SAG leaders repeatedly of being overly militant and inflexible in their “one size fits all” approach to contracts.

The SAG-AFTRA feature-primtetime pact expires June 30.

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