SAG polling members

Guild wants members to hold out for better deal

With the stalemate between SAG and the congloms entering its third month, the Screen Actors Guild is pleading with its 120,000 members to back its strategy of holding out for a better deal.

SAG crafted a 14-page newsletter that began hitting member mailboxes over the holiday weekend. Its confrontational tone is certain to add to the frustration among the congloms.

“Your negotiating committee fights on to achieve a fair contract” reads the front-page headline. Other articles are titled “The beginning of the end of residuals” and “Why SAG can’t just give in.”

The missive doesn’t constitute an official strike authorization vote — even though it contains a polling card that asks members to “continue to fight for a fair deal” or sign on to accept the final offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. “We need your guidance,” SAG notes on the card. “Tell us what you think.”

Cards are due back by Sept. 15; SAG’s board election concludes three days later.

Most of the SAG missive recaps and summarizes previous messages to members, which have stressed the inadequacy of the AMPTP’s final offer.

The newsletter highlights the dissatisfaction with the final offer’s terms in new-media jurisdiction and residuals — which mirror the DGA, WGA and AFTRA deals — along with complaints about the companies’ proposals on force majeure, production integration and mileage reimbursement.

The AMPTP released a statement Monday that slammed the guild for stalling.

“It’s long past time for SAG’s negotiators to close this deal, and a mass postcard mailing is just another delay tactic meant to mask the fact that SAG’s negotiators have no coherent strategy,” the AMPTP said. “In fact, SAG’s postcard ‘poll’ appears to be designed to deliver just one thing: a result preordained by SAG’s negotiators.”

The newsletter also repeats the guild’s contention that informal negotiations continue, despite the AMPTP’s repeated denials that any fresh bargaining has taken place. According to the companies, SAG officially rejected their final offer on July 9 and the two sides last met on July 16, when the majors spurned SAG’s counteroffer.

The publication included national exec director Doug Allen’s entire message to members from July 17, titled “It’s Not New Media — It’s NOW Media” and insisting that SAG must get a better deal than the DGA, WGA and AFTRA.

SAG warned its members that there would be “spin” denying back-channel talks are taking place; studio sources insisted again Monday that no negotiations are taking place. The AMPTP also indicated that studios are now calculating that SAG won’t seek a strike authorization vote, which would require 75% approval.

“With four new contracts this year, the producers and the other Hollywood guilds have moved on, and we are now back to work,” the AMPTP said. “The longer SAG’s negotiators hold out, the more SAG members will lose out on the new-media rights and residuals, salary, pension and other increases in the producers’ $250 million final offer.”

In July, AFTRA members approved a primetime deal with the AMPTP despite fervent campaigning by SAG against the pact. Following a series of jurisdictional beefs, AFTRA angrily split off from joint negotiations with SAG in March for the first time in 27 years.

The two unions have informally indicated that they’ll negotiate together on the commercials contract, which was recently extended six months to March 31. However, dueling messages during the weekend indicated that SAG and AFTRA are moving toward separate negotiations on the interactive contract, which expired Dec. 31.

Michael Bell, chair of SAG’s interactive panel, accused AFTRA of blindsiding SAG and accused AFTRA of attempting to deleverage SAG in the process. AFTRA fired back Monday by accusing Bell of interfering in AFTRA’s internal process, asserting that it plans to go alone and contending that it needs to begin prepping for the negotiations “sooner rather than later” by holding off-the-record discussions with employers later this month.

“We are all committed to executing a sober, thoughtful and strategic approach to reaching a strong successor agreement for working performers,” it said. “As such, AFTRA will not engage in any discussions in the press, on blogs, or viral e-mails nor allow the AFTRA Interactive Agreement, or any other contract, to be used for political purposes.”

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