Guild wants to keep negotiating with majors

The Screen Actors Guild still wants more negotiations, a week after the majors pulled the plug on further bargaining via a final offer to the guild.

“Our industry does have a clear choice: a fair labor agreement for middle-class actors and their families … or more management grandstanding,” SAG said in an ad aimed at guild members in today’s Daily Variety. “Support your Screen Actors Guild’s national negotiating committee as it works every day for a fair deal as soon as possible for actors. Let’s keep talking.”

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which used the “clear choice” headline in a recent ad, responded by accusing SAG of foot-dragging.

“Now, even after 42 days of formal AMPTP-SAG negotiations, SAG’s Hollywood leadership remains incapable of closing the deal,” spokesman Jesse Hiestand said. “The stalling tactics of SAG’s Hollywood leadership are exacting an ever-greater toll on the workers and businesses that rely on the entertainment industry.”

But the majors have made it clear that the final offer to SAG — made a few hours before SAG’s feature-primetime contract expired — won’t be modified significantly.

The move by SAG comes on the same day it’s expected to make an announcement about the final offer — although it would be no surprise if the guild simply said it needs more time. SAG’s awaiting the results of AFTRA members voting on a primetime deal, expected to be announced Tuesday, after campaigning among its 44,000 members to vote no in the AFTRA ratification.

The final offer to SAG mirrors AFTRA’s deal, so the voting will provide guild leaders with a strong indication of whether guild members would be willing to strike. SAG hasn’t yet taken a strike authorization vote, which would require 75% approval; the majors have not yet moved to lock actors out.

Meanwhile, SAG and AFTRA have made competing last-minute appeals to members. SAG sent out a fervent email appeal from Sean Penn, while an unofficial group of AFTRA supporters added Kelly Preston and John Travolta to its list of more than 700 endorsers on the aftrayes.com site.

“AFTRA’s deal not only falls short of fair compensation and protection for actors but just as significantly reflects corporate appeasement that will have an irreversible negative effect on the integrity of the show and the films we perform in,” Penn wrote in a message that members began receiving Thursday. “They’re trying to buy us out, bully us down and in so doing, they will destroy the very purpose of our work.”

For its part, AFTRA’s been enthusiastically backing the deal — which mirrors the terms of the DGA and WGA pacts signed earlier this year — and blasting back at SAG in its messages to its 70,000 members.

“You’ve heard from so many of us, again and again, about the value and importance of AFTRA’s deal, urging you to vote YES,” AFTRA said in its most recent missive. “You’ve also heard from SAG Hollywood, again and again, about what a bad deal this is. This campaign by SAG is absolutely without precedent in the history of entertainment, likely within labor itself. The cost is exorbitant. Fliers, postcards, trade ads, robo calls … the price mounts every day.”

It’s unclear what will happen if the AFTRA deal’s voted down. SAG’s insisted that if that happens, it means SAG and AFTRA would then negotiate jointly — a scenario that AFTRA’s derided due to its lack of trust of the SAG leadership. Meanwhile, AFTRA’s insisted a “no” vote is equivalent to a strike authorization.

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