Guild's national board expected to approve

In a move that had been widely expected, SAG leaders and the congloms have reached a tentative agreement on a new two-year feature-primetime contract — opening the door for a pitched battle over ratification.

Announcement of the tentative deal came Friday afternoon, nearly 10 months after the previous pact expired, via a brief joint statement from the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The last major point to be settled centered on SAG insisting on an expiration date in June 2011 in order to stay in synch with the WGA, DGA and AFTRA expirations. Three days of official talks cratered in mid-February over the expiration date – even though both sides had agreed on other issues — with the companies demanding a three-year deal that would have expired in 2012.

The statement said that no details would be disclosed until Sunday following review by SAG’s national board at its previously scheduled meeting. That panel, which saw control shift last fall to a moderate coalition, is expected to approve the terms of the pact and trigger the mailing of ratification ballots to its 120,000 members.

The ratification process will take about three weeks. SAG president Alan Rosenberg and his allies in the hardline Membership First faction, which lost its board majority to the moderates, has vowed it will urge members to vote down the deal on grounds that it falls short in on on multitude of areas, particularly new media.

The deal comes following two months of back-channels talks between SAG toppers and moguls such as Disney’s Robert Iger and Warner Bros. Barry Meyer with SAG’s chief negotiator John McGuire and AMPTP exec VP Carol Lombardini executing the specifics of the new pact. SAG’s board ousted Doug Allen in January as SAG national exec director for allegedly botching the negotiations, replacing him with David White as interim national exec director and McGuire as chief negotiator.

Membership First has been protesting the presumed deal ever since Allen was fired and the negotiating committee was abolished and replaced with a task force. Scott Wilson, a SAG member who was on the negotiating committee, told Daily Variety that he’ll continue advocating a “no” vote in order to persuade the companies to sweeten the terms.

“If all that’s been changed is the term of the deal, it is up to the members to step up and claim their union by voting this down,” he said.

The AMPTP’s counter on its website asserted Thursday that SAG actors have lost $66.6 million in pay gains as a result of spurning the final offer, which it valued at $250 million. The counter had been taken down on Friday.

SAG members have worked since the expiration under terms and conditions of the expired deal.

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