Rhetoric ramps up as sides prepare for battle
With the Screen Actors Guild threatening to strike, there’s little chance of a backchannel deal to avert a work stoppage.Following the cratering of federal mediation over the weekend, no movement has emerged toward seeking another third party to broker a deal. Positions don’t appear to have softened, with both sides blasting away in what’s expected to be several weeks of trench warfare as SAG preps to send out a strike authorization to members. SAG hadn’t yet set the date for mailing out the authorization as of Monday evening. The guild has promised it would begin an educational campaign soon and insisted that obtaining a strike authorization would not necessarily mean a strike — an assertion disputed by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. SAG’s contended it needs the authorization to persuade companies to give the guild a better deal than the WGA, DGA, AFTRA and IATSE received. Late in the mediation process, its negotiating committee had offered to agree to the congloms’ new-media proposal, but only if the AMPTP granted SAG an increase in the DVD residuals rate — long a nonstarter for the companies. With major gaps still remaining, it’s unlikely that News Corp. president Peter Chernin and Disney CEO Robert Iger will repeat their roles as diplomats in hammering out a SAG deal. The duo met with SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen in early April in an effort to come to an agreement on the agenda for the formal bargaining, but that session was unproductive enough that the moguls opted to back away and let the formal negotiations process play out (Daily Variety, April 10). Iger and Chernin had been key players in crafting the DGA deal in January and the WGA deal a few weeks later. The duo began talks on the latter pact after the WGA announced it had backed off its demands for jurisdiction over reality TV and animation. Aaron McLear, spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Monday the governor hasn’t been approached about intervening in the SAG dispute. “He strongly encourages both sides to work together since right now is not a good time to be on strike,” McLear added. An online No SAG Strike petition that launched over the weekend had attracted more than 5,700 signatures as of Monday evening.