Studios sweeten SAG offer

Majors offer to make deal retroactive

In a bid to nudge SAG toward cutting a deal, the majors have included a $10 million sweetener to their final offer — on the condition that the guild ratify the pact by Aug. 15.

SAG’s set to respond today to the offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which sweetened the deal last week after SAG’s previous feature-primetime contract expired.

The AMPTP has told SAG that the pay increases offered in the deal would be retroactive to July 1 as long as the guild can get the deal ratified by its 120,000 members on or before Aug. 15.

News of the incentive emerged Wednesday with the majors prepping contingency plans for declaring the sides to be at an “impasse” should SAG remain unmoved. At that point, if there’s no strike, the majors can implement the terms of the “last, best and final” offer that it handed the guild on June 30, as dictated by labor law.

The AMPTP said Wednesday that the sweetener reflects its commitment to making a deal with SAG as soon as possible. “The producers have included this traditional incentive in the final offer in order to get everyone back to work and end the de facto strike,” the group added.

SAG answered by saying its goal is to bargain a fair deal for its members and that it preferred to respond to the offer at today’s meeting rather than in the press.

Should SAG ratify the sweetened terms by Aug. 15, other elements of the contract (such as provisions involving working conditions) would go into effect on the first day of the first weekly payroll period following SAG members’ ratification.

The AMPTP’s offer comes with a penalty. If SAG doesn’t ratify by Aug. 15, then all changes in compensation and other terms would not be retroactive to July 1 but instead take effect on the first day of the first payroll period after SAG members ratify a deal.

The move to offer a sweetener on an expired contract is a common tactic for the AMPTP in setting a date and giving an incentive along with not offering a union better terms if a deal is rejected.

SAG’s still widely expected to spurn the final offer, as guild leaders have remained insistent that SAG must achieve a better deal than the DGA, WGA and AFTRA — even after its strident campaign to derail AFTRA’s primetime ratification fell short. AFTRA announced late Tuesday that its pact was approved by 62.4% of its members who cast ballots.

Insiders believe SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen are unlikely to adopt any major shift in tone in the meeting with AMPTP today. The SAG toppers are expected to maintain that AMPTP’s final offer falls short and that the guild wants to keep negotiating. AMPTP president Nick Counter is not expected to budge from the position that the final offer made on June 30 remains just that.

Despite the AFTRA pact’s ratification, SAG’s leaders appear to have latched onto the 37.6% no vote on the deal as an indication that SAG members — many of whom are dual AFTRA cardholders — want them to keep holding out.

For its part, the AMPTP’s already indicated that it’s laying the groundwork for declaring an impasse and imposing the terms and conditions of the final offer. In its response Tuesday night to the AFTRA ratification, the congloms suggested SAG take the offer to members.

“We hope that SAG’s Hollywood leadership will allow SAG members to vote on AMPTP’s final offer — which would give SAG members more than $250 million in additional compensation and important new-media rights,” AMPTP said.

In other developments, the majors took another swing at SAG for stalling on making a deal, reaching out to more than 120 elected officials to blast the guild. Counter sent a letter to the legislators along with the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the wake of AFTRA’s ratification of its primetime deal Tuesday night.

SAG had urged its 44,000 members who also belong to AFTRA to vote against the deal, which contains the same terms as the final offer to SAG.

Counter noted in his letter that the AMPTP has spent 42 days in formal negotiations with SAG over the last 2½ months.

“The offer is also consistent with the four other industry labor agreements reached this year and proves that the producers can make our new-media framework work for performers and all other talent,” Counter said. “Unfortunately, SAG’s Hollywood leadership has unnecessarily stalled these negotiations.

“Instead of negotiating seriously, SAG instead began a destructive — and ultimately unsuccessful — campaign against the ratification of the AFTRA agreement.”

Counter said SAG’s anti-AFTRA campaign has stalled the negotiations and resulted in a de facto work stoppage.

“Each day that production grinds to a halt causes more and more dislocation to the economy of Los Angeles in particular and California in general,” he said. “Our final offer is designed to end this de facto strike and put our industry and all those who rely on it back to work.”

SAG deputy national exec director Pamm Fair responded to Counter’s letter by saying the guild wants to keep negotiating.

“We don’t think any legislators will be surprised that multibillion-dollar global companies engaged in negotiations with a union have resorted to rhetoric and mischaracterizations regarding union workers,” she said. “While we have not yet seen evidence of a slowdown in production, any decrease in film and television production would be a result of the studios and networks that control the industry, not the actors they hire. If anyone is stalling, it’s the AMPTP by suggesting that bargaining is over, when we clearly haven’t achieved an agreement that is fair for actors and the industry.”

The expiration of the SAG contract doesn’t mean that all work will stop since its terms and conditions mostly still apply — except for the grievance-arbitration process and the no-strike, no-lockout provisions. SAG has yet to set a strike authorization vote, which would take about three weeks to conduct; it’s also granted waivers to more than 355 indie features.

Because of the uncertainty over the SAG contract, major studios have pulled the plug on filming features while production on indie pics and some TV shows has continued. Hollywood’s offlot shooting during the past week has remained about the same as a year ago, according to permitting coordinator FilmL.A.

For the period ended Tuesday, feature permits totaled 12 with 102 production days — nearly the same as the first week in July 2007, when there were 12 permits and 97 days.

Permits for TV dramas jumped to 18 from 13; reality TV was up to 12 permits from 10; and sitcoms fell to two from three.

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