Allen proposes vote on AMPTP's offer

Amidst a brutal internal war, leaders of the Screen Actors Guild have put their divisive strike authorization on hold until at least next week so they can explore making a run at a last-ditch round of negotiations with the congloms.

The gambit by SAG national exec director Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg has emerged in the wake of the acrimonious national board meeting. That Monday-Tuesday session amounted to a 30-hour marathon filibuster — led by Rosenberg — to bar board moderates from firing Allen, pulling the plug on the strike authorization and replacing the negotiating committee.

But there may be far too much bad blood for the new strategy to succeed since it calls for the final offer to go out with no recommendation from the guild. SAG New York president Sam Freed told Daily Variety that he won’t back the idea because he thinks Allen has bungled the negotiations.

“It is irresponsible and cynical at best to suggest that the guild could send out a contract referendum to the members with a neutral recommendation,” Freed said. “The guild, under the direction of Doug Allen, has spent the last eight months and hundreds of thousands of dollars of members’ money criticizing the contract in an effort to manipulate the membership.”

Rosenberg said Thursday that he’s trying to persuade SAG officers to back Allen’s plan, disclosed late Wednesday in a message to board members. “I expect that there will be a lot of back-channel talks in the next few days,” he added.

Allen has proposed that the strike authorization be put on hold and the congloms’ final offer be sent to the membership for a ratification vote after SAG meets with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Televison Producers to determine if it’s willing to improve its last offer to maximize the chances for ratification.

“I further proposed that the offer then be sent to the members with pro and con statements from national board members and that otherwise the guild would remain neutral during any member debate regarding ratification,” Allen said.

The AMPTP had no comment Thursday on SAG’s strategy. But Freed noted that the majority of the board had tried at this week’s meeting to resolve the stalemate over the feature-primetime deal, which expired June 30, and move the guild in a new direction.

“That effort was met with overt obstructionist actions led by president Rosenberg,” Freed added.

Rosenberg characterized the move as an attempt by Allen to seek a workable solution. “As usual, Doug always looks for a compromise,” he added.

Rosenberg also said he believes the AMPTP will improve the offer — even though SAG has already announced that it’s going to be sent out without a recommendation, which would appear to give companies no incentive to sweeten the terms.

“The better the companies make the deal, the better chance it has of being ratified,” Rosenberg said. “If they put enough good things in it, I might endorse it.”

Rosenberg also noted that 97% of SAG’s board voted in October to send out a strike authorization should federal mediation fail, which it did when SAG insisted on a hike in DVD residuals.

“We are mandated to send out the authorization,” he added.

But opponents have contended that the subsequent failure of the economy has removed a strike as a viable option.

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