Madison Avenue’s going down to the wire with SAG and AFTRA, as weekend talks continued ahead of Tuesday’s contract expiration date.
Negotiators worked Saturday and Sunday in New York but remained in a news blackout as talks moved into their fifth week. A person close to the negotiations indicated some progress is being made and the union side has displayed unanimity during the sessions, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
The strike threat emerged two weeks ago with the unauthorized release of a draft letter seeking an authorization vote from SAG and AFTRA members. The unions haven’t yet taken that step, which would require about three weeks to complete — if the ad industry digs in its heels.
Key points at the talks include the industry’s proposed shift to a compensation formula based on the ratings garnered by commercials, rather than stick with the traditional pay-per-play method. Commercials producers also want to cut by more than $20 million annually their contributions to SAG and AFTRA’s pension and health plans.
SAG has often allowed contracts to expire — which means that performers continue to work under the terms and conditions of the existing deal, minus protection from a management lockout and without a grievance procedure.
Its feature-primetime contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expired June 30 with both sides now in a standoff over the term of the next deal.
Back-channel talks have been taking place to seek a compromise on the film-TV deal ever since those talks cratered Feb. 19.