SAG still at odds over a feature pact

Though SAG’s reached a tentative deal on its commercials contract, it still faces roadblocks on resolving its long-stalled feature-primetime deal with the congloms — including continued opposition from president Alan Rosenberg.

“The proposal on the table is still unacceptable,” declared Rosenberg on Thursday at a rally outside the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. “The companies have not ever bargained in good faith. They have not moved a dime off the DGA new-media terms from over a year ago.”

Hardliners at the Screen Actors Guild have insisted they’ll fight against ratification if the guild manages to work out a compromise with the AMPTP. Negotiations with the AMPTP collapsed on Feb. 19, although the two sides had reached agreement on all issues except for the contract’s expiration date.

The AMPTP had no immediate response, though the companies have insisted repeatedly that the deal — which can be modified or withdrawn after April 20 — is still generous at a time of economic recession. As of Thursday, a counter on the AMPTP website said SAG members have missed out on $63.3 million in salary gains that they would have achieved had the guild accepted the deal last June.

“I’m glad to see that there are still people who are keeping the fires burning,” said Rosenberg, who stressed that he wasn’t speaking on behalf of SAG. “This fight is not over. My feeling has not changed at all.”

Rosenberg also spoke to the crowd at the rally, which drew more than 100, including former SAG president Ed Asner and Hollywood board members Renee Aubrey, Jane Austin and France Nuyen.

Rosenberg recently returned to Los Angeles after spending the past month directing Neil LaBute’s “Autobahn” at the Cleveland Playhouse in a production starring students of Case Western U., Rosenberg’s alma mater.

On Thursday, he continued to blame the moderates who control SAG’s national board for “sabotage” in allegedly taking away the guild’s leverage by opposing his strategy of seeking a strike authorization from members.

Thursday’s rally came a day after negotiators for SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists jointly reached a tentative deal with Madison Avenue, even though the salary gains of 5.2% are far lower than what’s stated in the AMPTP proposal. Rosenberg said he hadn’t fully digested the details of the pact but indicated he was pleased about the retention of the current pay-per-play system of residuals and the union’s advances on new media.

“The AMPTP should take a lesson from this negotiation,” he added.

With SAG elections looming in September, Rosenberg hasn’t decided whether he’ll seek a third two-year term.

Rosenberg indicated it would be preferable for his allies to settle on a single candidate representing the “progressive” side of the membership rather than repeating the scenario of the 2007 election. In that contest, Rosenberg narrowly defeated Seymour Cassel — with both campaigning on promises to take an aggressive approach to negotiations.

Thursday’s rally was also organized to call for the federal government to investigate the alleged antitrust practices of entertainment industry congloms. That effort prompted a sharp denial by the companies last week.

Scott Wilson, who’s organized the rallies during the past two months, said Thursday that the government hasn’t yet responded. The guild dissidents — mostly members of the Membership First faction — are not acting as an official SAG group.

“These are really bread and butter issues,” Wilson said. “It’s not about second houses and bigger swimming pools for name actors — it’s about professional actors’ ability to continue making a living. The conglomerates control every part of this business, which means independent producers get shut out and professional actors see their opportunities disappear.”

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