The two sides agree on media blackout on negotiations

SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have launched negotiations and officially blacked out any disclosure about the contract talks, which began Thursday in New York City.

“Today’s talks were cordial and positive, and both groups look forward to productive bargaining under a jointly agreed upon media blackout already in effect,” the union and the industry said in a joint statement. “We will have no further comment.”

The current contract, which covers roughly $1 billion in annual earnings, expires on March 31.

The blackout is in line with the policy of the SAG-AFTRA national board, which approved the package of proposals on Feb. 2 without offering any details.

Douglas Wood, the lead negotiator for the ad industry — repped through the joint policy committee of the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies and the Assn. of National Advertisers — told members in a video posted this week that he expected the negotiations to take “virtually every day” through March 31 to reach a deal.

Wood also said in the video that wage increases, hiring practices and digital use would be issues to be discussed. “Clearly, the way we use actors is changing,” he added.

The JPC notified members in December to consider “prudent planning” in the case of a strike including rescheduling production planned for March 31 through June. It also advised members to consider taking steps to maintain rights on current commercials if those rights are expiring in the three months after March 31.

The union and the industry are in the final seven weeks of a one-year extension to the three-year contract reached in 2009. SAG and AFTRA sought and received the extension in mid-2011 in order to focus their efforts on a merger, which was approved by members last March.

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