AMPTP add up strike sum

Producers focusing on economics

Are the congloms now using guilt to get their way?

A SAG strike will cost members $2.5 million a day — or $250 million if the guild matches the WGA strike and stays out 100 days, according to their calculations.

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers issued the estimate Tuesday, based on earnings reported to SAG’s pension and health plan. As a result, the estimate doesn’t include the portion of earnings from individual members who take in more than $230,000 annually, since P&H contributions are capped at that figure.

The AMPTP posted the loss estimates on its website at amptp.org. The site continues to include a calculator estimating how much SAG members have lost in salary gains — now at over $35 million — since the contract expired June 30.

In another development, leaders of SAG have told their 120,000 members that they don’t want to strike — even though they’re seeking an authorization from members to do so. SAG made the declaration late Monday in a fiery message to members in response to the “open letter” by eight CEOs, accusing the guild of being elitist and unrealistic in its approach to negotiations.

Talks between SAG and the AMPTP collapsed Nov. 22, triggering the move by SAG to ask members to endorse the strike authorization.

“SAG does not want a strike,” the missive said. “We made the decision to seek a strike authorization only after the AMPTP continued to stonewall through negotiations and mediation. Now, the AMPTP is attempting to use today’s economic uncertainty to intimidate us into signing away our future for decades to come.”

SAG’s continued to insist that it needs a “yes” vote on the authorization to bring the majors back to the table. And it noted that the AMPTP’s cost of placing the letter as an ad in the Los Angeles Times had been $100,000.

“Obviously, we have their attention,” SAG said. “Send the AMPTP a message by approving a strike authorization to empower SAG’s national board, so the AMPTP knows that we mean business.”

The AMPTP’s final offer to SAG came June 30 as the master contract for features and primetime expired. The congloms have estimated that actors would have gained $250 million in pay over three years under terms similar to deals signed by the WGA, DGA, IATSE, the casting directors and AFTRA.

SAG’s continued to dispute the AMPTP’s interpretation, insisting that the final offer includes rollbacks and “new media loopholes that would prevent SAG actors from sharing in the studios’ success in any meaningful way when this technology inevitably explodes.”

SAG also cited the dispute between the WGA and the AMPTP over the interpretation of new media terms in the WGA deal as a basis for claiming the AMPTP can’t be trusted. It noted that the terms of the two-decades-old homevideo deal were crafted under the assumption it would be revisited and made fair once the technology took off — an interpretation that’s at odds with the majors’ view.

“But for more than two decades, the AMPTP continued to give us only a tiny sliver of the billions of dollars of windfall revenue they made selling videocassettes and DVDs,” SAG said. “For SAG members, the question is this: Do you trust the AMPTP? As our colleagues at the Writers Guild of America are learning, the AMPTP has its own interpretation of the deals it makes.”

For its part, the AMPTP’s hammered SAG for being tone deaf amid the financial crisis.

“On a day when the United States was officially declared to be in a recession, when Gov. Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency for California, and when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 680 points, SAG continues to demand more and better than everyone else,” the AMPTP said Monday. “Unfortunately, the chasm between reality and SAG seems to widen by the day.”

SAG hasn’t yet set a date for sending out the strike authorization ballots. For SAG to strike, more than 75% of members of those voting would have to approve, and the guild’s national board would then have to OK a work stoppage.

SAG’s also set a town hall meeting to discuss the strike authorization for Monday evening at the Harmony Gold Preview House.

In a related development, Canada’s main actors union ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, TV & Radio Artists) said Tuesday it intends to do everything in its power to support SAG if it goes out on strike. But ACTRA national executive director Stephen Waddell admitted his union is limited in what it can do to back SAG.

”We’re going to support them to the extent that we legally can,” Waddell said. ”If they’re trying to (avoid) a SAG strike, we’ll do everything we can to support our brothers and sisters in SAG.”

But the reality is that ACTRA members will not be able to withdraw their services from any production by a Canadian company that is a signatory to the ACTRA agreement with the Canadian producers association. So even if that show is being produced for a U.S. network, the ACTRA members will not be able to walk off the job to support SAG.

Where ACTRA has power is if a new company sets up shop here to try to produce a TV production or movie during the strike. That’s because ACTRA does not have to work with a company that is not a signatory of the collective agreement between the Canadian union and the Canuck producers.

But Waddell doesn’t believe many U.S. producers will try to come to produce in Canada in the event of a SAG strike because U.S. productions usually need SAG members for the lead roles and are not likely to want to embark on a production with only Canadian actors.

Waddell said the threat of a SAG strike has resulted in a major slowdown in American production in Canada. ”It’s already had a devastating impact on the industry here,” he added.

(Brendan Kelly in Montreal contributed to this report.)

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