Rosenberg, VP going to court over fired exec

HOLLYWOOD — With the Screen Actors Guild about to relaunch contract talks, guild president Alan Rosenberg and first VP Anne-Marie Johnson have disclosed plans to go to court to demand reinstatement of Doug Allen as national exec director.

The duo submitted a legal document to SAG on Monday.

“Screen Actors Guild today received a document that our legal team is reviewing,” said SAG spokeswoman Pamela Greenwalt. “We have no further comment.”

News of the legal action was first reported by TheWrap.com. Rosenberg and Johnson led a 28-hour filibuster on Jan. 12-13 to prevent the moderate majority of SAG’s national board from firing Allen. The moderates then used a “written assent” — gathering the signatures of 53% of the board — to fire Allen on Jan. 26 for allegedly botching the negotiations.

SAG and the congloms will hold their much-anticipated relaunch of feature-primetime contract talks today. The negotiations and the firing have already emerged as rallying points for the run-up to September’s SAG election, which will see the presidency and about a third of the national board at stake. The coalition of moderates, who ousted Allen on Jan. 26, hold 53% of the board seats.

SAG and the AMPTP have refused to comment publicly beyond admitting that they’ve scheduled meetings for today and Wednesday at the Sherman Oaks headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Allen’s been replaced as lead negotiator by SAG senior adviser John McGuire, and the negotiating committee’s been replaced by a 10-member task force under the control of the national board’s moderate majority.

But SAG and the AMPTP know each other’s positions thoroughly, so the talks may go relatively quickly. Insiders say three key issues will need to be resolved for a deal to emerge:

  • The companies’ demand to remove force majeure language from the contract and SAG’s claims that companies failed to pay millions of dollars to actors left without work when TV series went dark during the Writers Guild of America strike.

  • The length of the contract. SAG members have been working under terms of a three-year deal, which expired on June 30 as the AMPTP made its final offer. SAG would want a shorter deal with a June 30, 2011, expiration to coincide with the AFTRA and DGA terminations and stay near the May 1, 2011, expiration of the WGA deal, while the companies will probably favor a full three-year deal with an expiration in 2012 — with as much distance as possible from the WGA’s termination date.

  • A retroactive start date for the contract to allow SAG members to be paid at the higher rates in the new contract for work performed since the previous pact expired June 30. The AMPTP’s asserted that SAG members have lost $50 million out of the $250 million in pay hikes they would have gained had the final offer been accepted seven months ago.

The trio of issues emerged as major discussion points during the last round of negotiations in November, when federal mediation failed to yield an agreement after SAG insisted that it needed to receive an increase in DVD residuals — long a nonstarter for the AMPTP, which has insisted since it made the final offer that it’s not going to revamp the basic terms, particularly since it signed six other Hollywood union agreements last year.

SAG’s Membership First faction, which lost control of the national board in September, was ousted from leading the negotiating committee last week as the moderates replaced the panel with a 10-member task force that has only three slots for Hollywood-based Membership First — president Rosenberg, first VP Johnson and national board member Clancy Brown.

The other members of the task force include New York president Sam Freed; two other Hollywood reps — Morgan Fairchild, who usually votes with the moderates, and the moderates’ Unite for Strength leader Ned Vaughn; New York board members Mike Hodge and Matt Servitto; and regional reps Nancy Duerr and Mike Pniewski.

For a SAG deal to go into effect, the agreement would require approval by the national board — which would trigger mailing ratification ballots to the 110,000 dues-current SAG members. Membesrhip First is virutally certain to oppose any deal.

SAG’s leaders attempted to persuade AFTRA members to vote down that union’s primetime deal last summer, but that agreement was ratified by 62% of those voting.

SAG and AFTRA are scheduled to begin joint negotiations with the ad industry on Feb. 23. The commercials contract, which has been extended twice, expires on March 31.

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