SAG leaders still disagree

Hollywood board votes to send final offer

With the Screen Actors Guild’s contract stalemate in its ninth month, the guild’s elected leaders continue to bicker over tactics.

In the latest iteration, the badly fractured Hollywood board voted Monday night to advise the national board to send out the congloms’ final offer to members — without a recommendation — even though the national panel spurned taking this step two weeks ago.

SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers had no official comment on the vote, taken at a meeting at guild headquarters in Hollywood. And though SAG’s feature-primetime master contract expired on June 30, there’s now a distinct possibility that months, or even years, could go by before the guild finally signs a deal.

Negotiations between SAG and the AMPTP collapsed Feb. 19 over the issue of when SAG’s contract would expire, with the guild pushing for a two-year deal and the congloms insisting on a three-year term. SAG’s negotiating task force had agreed to accept the AMPTP’s new-media template but the companies have drawn a line in the sand over the expiration, asserting that companies need a full three years of labor peace.

SAG’s moderate majority has insisted that the contract needs to expire in sync with the WGA, DGA and AFTRA in mid-2011; the AMPTP’s proposed that it end three years after SAG ratifies the deal, or somewhere around mid-2012. No compromise, such as a Dec. 31, 2011, expiration, has yet emerged, though the moderates continued to indicate at Monday’s meeting that they believe the congloms will eventually agree to a compromise of some sort.

SAG’s national board rejected the AMPTP’s “last, best, final” offer on Feb. 21. The hardline Membership First faction — which lost its majority on the national board last fall but still controls the Hollywood board — has asserted that the “last, best, final” offer should be sent out in its current form and then voted down by the members to force the congloms to improve the offer.

Membership First partisans contended Monday that SAG runs the risk that the AMPTP will impose the terms of its “last, best, final” offer around April 20 although the companies have said only that they retain the right to revise the offer at that point.

For now, Membership First appears to have abandoned the idea of asking members for a strike authorization, which would require a 75% approval by members, and instead pushed the notion that membership rejection of the final offer would amount to a “poor man’s strike authorization.”

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