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SAG, AFTRA to prep for negotiations

Member meetings will hammer out feature-primetime proposals

SAG and AFTRA are formally launching preparations for the feature-primetime contract negotiations, setting a series of member meetings to hammer out contract proposals.

The first “wages and working conditions” session has been set for June 16 at the Screen Actors Guild headquarters in Hollywood. That session is the first of 17 for Hollywood members of SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists with the final meeting set for July 23.

The meetings, announced Wednesday, come as negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers are set to start on Oct. 1 and run through Nov. 15. SAG president Ken Howard, who has used his tenure to repair relations with AFTRA, was named in April to lead SAG’s negotiating committee and national head of the guild’s wages and working conditions committee.

Leaders of SAG and AFTRA haven’t identified yet which issues will be emphasized but early indications are that two areas are likely to emerge — compensation for work on digital platforms along with employer contributions to pension and health plans.

SAG and AFTRA will jointly negotiate the primetime portion of the master contract, which expires June 30, 2011 — a reversal from the last round of contract talks.

AFTRA angrily split from SAG in early 2008 and negotiated its own primetime deal, which was ratified by members nearly a year before SAG reached a similar deal with the companies. Since then, companies have opted to sign deals with AFTRA rather than SAG on new TV series shot on digital, even though SAG’s elected leadership has become far more moderate.

The SAG-AFTRA negotiations will go in front of talks for the Directors Guild of America, which announced a month ago that it would hold off on starting its formal talks until mid-November.

The Writers Guild of America says it’s in the process of determining its timetable for negotiations, even though the scribes’ contract expires May 1, 2011, two months before its sister guilds. That’s an indication that the WGA will opt for its usual strategy of waiting until the expiration is only a few months away before launching its talks with the AMPTP.

The DGA deal expires June 30, 2011.

The DGA has traditionally gone first to the negotiations with the AMPTP, but SAG negotiated the seven-week bargaining period into its current contract — after SAG leaders complained extensively that the DGA had been allowed to go first and “set the template” for the subsequent deals, as it did in the latter stages of the WGA strike in 2008.

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