SAG may send offer to its members

Move could resolve current stalemate

Despite their public disdain for the idea, SAG’s leaders may agree to the majors’ request to send out their final offer to the 120,000 guild members at the end of July.

Such a move could resolve Hollywood’s current stalemate by the middle of August, should a majority of voting thesps endorse the deal.

Asked on Monday about the possibility of a member vote coming soon, SAG spokeswoman Pamela Greenwalt emphasized that such a move’s the province of the guild — not the congloms. “How and when our contracts are ratified is an internal union decision,” she said.

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers had no comment Monday.

But guild insiders have acknowledged they have few other options left in the face of the congloms’ adamant refusal to change terms contained in the two-week-old final offer. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that SAG’s not going to ask its members for a strike authorization, since it’s highly debatable whether the guild would achieve the 75% support level needed for a work stoppage.

Although most major studio features have closed down due to the uncertainty over the Screen Actors Guild situation, producers are now pondering going ahead with such projects. Additionally, a dozen TV series have continued to shoot, and SAG has issued more than 500 waivers to indie features, under which companies agree to observe the terms of SAG’s new deal.

SAG’s national board is due to meet July 26, and if it agrees to send the deal to members, it would give thesps enough time to ratify the deal by Aug. 15 — the deadline set by the AMPTP to ratify the pact in order for members to receive about $10 million in pay retroactive to July 1.

Should SAG keep stalling, the retroactive sweetener would disappear. Additionally, the go-slow strategy carries additional risks for SAG — actors working on SAG features and TV shows will do so under the terms of the expired contract; and AFTRA will have the upper hand in signing new TV shows on digital, since it’s an area of shared jurisdiction.

Given their public distaste for the final offer, it would be a surprise if SAG’s leaders include an endorsement of the deal in the ratification ballot. Instead, the more likely scenario would be sending out the AMPTP’s deal without any recommendation or with pro and con arguments.

The AMPTP has insisted the proposed deal is generous, particularly amid a souring economy, and emphasized that the terms mirror those contained in pacts with the Directors Guild of America, Writers Guild of America and AFTRA. SAG topper Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg have insisted the actors deserve a better deal.

Rosenberg said last week that SAG would not send the final deal to members despite the AMPTP’s request to do so, adding he believed the members would vote it down. The congloms made the final offer on June 30 as SAG’s feature-primetime deal expired, then asked the guild last week to send it to members.

“We hope that SAG’s Hollywood leadership will allow SAG members to vote on AMPTP’s final offer — which would give SAG members more than $250 million in additional compensation and important new media rights,” the AMPTP said at the time.

If SAG members vote down the deal, guild insiders believe they could return to the bargaining table with more leverage. It’s unclear whether such a scenario could take place, given that AFTRA’s ratification was approved by 62% of those voting — despite an aggressive campaign by SAG against the AFTRA pact. Ballots went out to 70,000 AFTRA members, 44,000 of whom also belong to SAG.

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