National board to meet next weekend

The Screen Actors Guild could go on strike before the end of November.

In a message sent to members late Thursday, SAG president Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen told members that the national board will meet next weekend on the question of whether to conduct a strike authorization over SAG’s master contract on features and primetime. If the national board approves, the leaders said than SAG will then need 30 to 45 days to hold such a vote among members.

“If 75% of the qualified SAG members who vote in the referendum support the strike authorization, only then can the national board of directors call an actual work stoppage, should the board decide that it has become necessary to do so,” Rosenberg and Allen said in the missive.

The duo noted that it was “important” to note that if passed by a majority of the national board, the resolution does not call a strike. “It only provides for a membership referendum to be conducted, which will take approximately 30 to 45 days,” they said.

In a response issued Friday, the congloms took issue with the assertion by Rosenberg and Allen that the authorization wouldn’t lead to a strike.

“SAG negotiators seem determined to force another unnecessary, harmful strike,” the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers said. “Why else would SAG negotiators be unreasonably insisting, at a time of national economic collapse, on a better deal that the one achieved by the other

Hollywood Guilds much earlier this year, during much better economic times?”

The notice is the guild’s first official notification of members of a possible timeline for a strike. However, it’s uncertain whether SAG’s national board will support sending out the strike authorization when it meets on Oct. 18.

Rosenberg and Allen noted that SAG’s negotiating committee passed a resolution on Oct. 1 urging the national board to take a strike authorization vote — even though the negotiating committee had the power to initiate the vote on its own.

Instead, the committee deferred the matter to the national board, where control shifted last month away from the Hollywood-based Membership First faction, led by Rosenberg, to a less assertive coalition composed of reps from the New York and regional branches and the upstart Unite for Strength faction.

Unite for Strength, which gained enough Hollywood seats to give the moderates a one-vote edge, hasn’t yet revealed whether it will support the call for a strike authorization vote. During its campaign, Unite for Strength asserted that Membership First had bungled the negotiations by alienating the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which saw its members ratify AFTRA’s primetime deal in July over SAG’s objections.

Rosenberg and Allen also noted that a strike would not impact work on the more than 750 indie features that have been given waivers — or guaranteed completion contracts — under which producers who aren’t repped by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers agree to adhere to whatever deal SAG signs with the AMPTP. SAG began giving waivers months before the June 30 expiration of the contract so significant numbers of those projects have already been shot.

The AMPTP has blasted SAG’s efforts to move toward a strike authorization on two fronts. They’ve pointed out that SAG continues to seek sweeter terms than the WGA, DGA and AFTRA and that it’s doing so with the world in a financial crisis.

SAG and the AMPTP have not met since July 16. Allen insists that informal negotiations have been taking place since then — an assertion that’s been explicitly and repeatedly denied by the majors.

For its part, SAG announced Sept. 29 that it wanted to resume talks after highlighting three issues as keys to reaching a deal — payment for repeats via Web streaming of made-for-Internet productions; SAG jurisdiction for all made-for-Internet productions; and maintaining the force majeure provision in the expired master contract.

But AMTP president Nick Counter said the same day that further talks would be not be productive as long as SAG’s positions remained unchanged from their last face-to-face meeting in July.

“The DGA, WGA and AFTRA reached agreement on comparable terms months ago, during far better economic times, and it is unrealistic for SAG negotiators now to expect even better terms during this grim financial climate,” the AMPTP warned on Oct. 1. ” This is the harsh economic reality, and no strike will change that reality.”

The AMPTP’s calculator on its Web site estimated as of Friday that SAG members have lost over $23.3 million in gains they would have achieved over the past three and a half months had the majors’ final offer been ratified.

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