SAG negotiators may be replaced

Move could also include removing Doug Allen

SAG’s moderate wing plans to replace the guild’s negotiating committee in hopes of breaking the contract stalemate with the majors.

The move, expected to take place at the Jan. 12-13 emergency meeting of the Screen Actors Guild’s national board, could also include removing SAG national exec director Doug Allen as chief negotiator. Allen’s been widely criticized over how he’s handled SAG’s strategy this year, particularly since control of the national board shifted towards the more pragmatic side three months ago.

SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers had no immediate comment Wednesday about the development, first reported in the Los Angeles Times.

The plan to replace the negotiation committee has emerged with support growing in recent weeks for halting SAG’s strike authorization vote, which was postponed until after the board meeting. The moderate coalition gained control of SAG’s 71-member board in September with a slim majority over the more aggressive Membership First faction, which still dominates the negotiating committee.

Ned Vaughn, spokesman for the moderate Unite For Strength faction, said he could not comment on specifics of steps to be taken at the meeting. “The board has a choice to make — either go ahead with the strike authorization vote or move in a new direction,” he told Daily Variety.

But SAG First VP and negotiating committee member Anne-Marie Johnson told Daily Variety it would “undemocratic” to call off the strike authorization vote and not allow SAG’s membership to make the decision.

Johnson also criticized Allen’s critics. “To want to fire your lead negotiator, whose only fault is that he’s trying to get the best possible contract he can get, baffles the mind,” she added.

A new negotiating team would probably attempt to re-start negotiations with the AMPTP, which made its final offer on June 30 as SAG’s contract expired. SAG and the AMPTP have held 46 negotiating session since April but remain far apart on key new-media issues.

Negotiators last met on Nov. 22 under supervision of a federal mediator. Those talks cratered after SAG demanded a hike in DVD residuals — long a non-starter for the congloms.

The moderates have rallied behind a Dec. 2 letter by Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman contending that SAG needs to accept a deal along the lines of the final offer, which contains similar terms to those in pacts signed in 2008 by the WGA, DGA, AFTRA, IATSE and the casting directors.

Allen and president Alan Rosenberg have continued to insist that SAG needs the strike authorization to get a better deal while maintaining that a “yes” vote would not necessarily lead to a strike. Over 75% of the members voting would have to affirm that authorization with final say over going out on strike resting with the national board.

Over 1,800 members have come out against the authorization including Tom Hanks, George Clooney and Sally Field. Nearly 3,000 members have signed a solidarity statement supporting a “yes” vote, including Martin Sheen, Ed Asner and Mel Gibson.

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