SAG, studios apply extra pressure

Guild, majors stuck in stalemate

With no signs of a break in the three-week stalemate between the Screen Actors Guild and the majors, both sides are keeping up the pressure.

SAG leaders maintained a defiant tone over the weekend, insisting the guild could still go on strike and that negotiations are continuing — in spite of the congloms’ repeated assertion that they’re not revising their final offer, which was put on the table as SAG’s feature-primetime contract expired June 30.

SAG national exec director Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg received enthusiastic support — including several standing ovations — at Saturday’s membership meeting of the Hollywood Division at the Sportsmen’s Lodge. The guild estimated the SRO crowd at 735.

Allen and Rosenberg both bashed the final offer and rival union AFTRA, which ratified its primetime deal two weeks ago over SAG’s strenuous objections. The duo didn’t discuss strategy beyond Allen noting that SAG could still strike, followed by his oft-stated aphorism that without that threat, “collective bargaining is collective begging.”

However, SAG has not scheduled a strike authorization vote, nor has it complied with repeated requests by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers to send the deal to members for approval.

For its part, the AMPTP’s taken out a display ad titled “The Deal — Let’s Keep Working” in today’s Los Angeles Times highlighting the strong support among union leaders for its previous deals with the DGA, WGA and AFTRA. WGA West president Patric Verrone is quoted as saying, “This is the best deal the guild has bargained in 30 years.”

The ad also notes that SAG members would receive $250 million in salary gains over three years along increases in pension and health and “the same groundbreaking new-media terms that have already served as the cornerstone of four other major labor agreements this year.”

SAG and the AMPTP have met three times since the contract expired with the guild making counter-proposals while the companies insist the final deal is indeed final. No new meetings have been set and — despite the uncertainty created by the expiration of the SAG contract — there’s little chance that the companies would inflame the situation by locking SAG out or imposing terms of the new deal by declaring an impasse.

On Saturday, Allen repeated his assertions that SAG can’t accept the new-media deal due to its failure to guarantee the guild jurisdiction on low-budget projects plus the lack of residuals for programs made for new media and streamed again on ad-supported new-media platforms.

Allen and Rosenberg also complained the majors are insisting on eliminating force majeure protections and refusing to pay claims for actors who had to stop working on series during the WGA strike. It’s possible the AMPTP would concede on force majeure if SAG was moving toward taking the final deal to members.

SAG stands to lose a $10 million sweetener provision in retroactive pay if its members fail to ratify the final offer by Aug. 15. It still has enough time to retain the provision if the guild’s national board, which meets July 26, approved sending to deal to the 120,000 members and a majority OK the deal.

But the tone and tenor of remarks at the Hollywood membership meeting is a probable signal that SAG’s Hollywood leaders — who control the national board — may be more inclined to let the stalemate stay in place until after board elections, which conclude in mid-September.

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