Majors make Actors Guild final offer

Confounding expectations that SAG was nearing a deal, the majors and the Screen Actors Guild broke off three days of talks late Thursday with the congloms issuing a take-it-or-leave-it “last, best and final” offer.

The talks fell apart over SAG’s insistence that a new feature-primetime deal had to expire on June 30, 2011 – meaning that the deal would last only two years and three months.

For its part, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers insisted that the new deal has to last a full three years. And the congloms also announced their new offer could be withdrawn in 60 days.

“The terms in the offer are the best we can offer or will offer in light of the other five major labor industry deals negotiated over the past year and the extraordinary economic crisis gripping the world economy,” the AMPTP said.

The harball moves by both sides throw even more uncertainty into Hollywood’s outlook, which has been muddied since SAG’s master contract expired eight months ago on June 30.

SAG had no immediate response but the key issue separating the two sides – with the companies’ demanding a three-year deal from the date of ratification, rather three years from the expiration date of the last contract — turned out to be insurmountable.

The companies have insisted that they need the full three years to provide stability amid a volatile outlook for the industry. But such a term would push SAG’s expiration to at least March 2012 and de-couple the end of the SAG contract faw away from the WGA’s in May 2011 and the DGA’s and AFTRA’s in June 2011 – thus diminishing SAG’s bargaining clout since there would be much smaller chance of SAG being on strike at the same time as another Hollywood union.

The AMPTP also said it would be willing to start negotiations on the successor contract no later than November, 2010, which would allow SAG to get back into synch with the other unions in 2014 – as long as SAG and AFTRA ratified the successor agreements by June 30, 2011.

That proposal wasn’t enough to persuade SAG’s leaders to accept the “last, best and final” offer, which included half a dozen “concessions” by the AMPTP:

  • Withdrawal of the proposal on “French Hours,” which covers meal penalties

  • Modification the “union security” clause for new media productions

  • Withdrawal of its proposal to eliminate force majeure protection and present a revised clause for series contract performers impacted by an unforseen event such as the WGA strike

  • Increased covered background performers in features from two to five.

  • Recognition that dancing on hard and slippery surfaces may qualify as hazardous activity

  • Agreement with SAG’s proposal to allow TV stunt coordinators to participate in revenue-based residual payments

The congloms made the “last, best and final offer” eight months after issuing a “final” offer to SAG on June 30 as the guild’s feature-primetime contract expired.

The three days of talks represented only the second round of talks for SAG and the AMPTP since last July. Two days of talks in November, supervised by a federal mediator, also cratered when SAG demanded increases in DVD residuals, product placement protections and retroactivity.

The failure of former national exec director Doug Allen to close the deal was the major factor in SAG’s national board ousting him last month. That panel, which also replaced the feature-primetime negotiating commitee last month with a task force, will meet Saturday to discuss the failed talks.

Moderates had wrested control of the SAG board from Membership First hardliners last fall and grew increasingly frustrated with Allen’s insistence that a strike authorization was necessary. They chose to install senior adviser John McGuire to replace Allen as chief negotiator – over the strident objections of SAG president Alan Rosenberg and the Membership First faction, which conducted a 28-hour filibuster to prevent Allen’s firing and the abolition of the negotiating committee.

Rosenberg and board members Anne-Marie Johnson, Diane Ladd and Kent McCord then sued SAG and the moderates to overturn their actions but failed in his efforts to obtain a court order.

Despite the suit, Rosenberg and Johnson are part of the 10-member task force that met with the AMPTP. Seven of the 10 slots on the task force are occupied by the moderates.

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