SAG talks turn to key issues

Negotiations with studios take serious tone

Will the Screen Actors Guild go on strike when its feature-primetime contract expires June 30?

With Hollywood still unnerved by the possibility of a second strike in less than seven months, the answer will become much clearer this week. SAG’s negotiations with the majors will become much more serious after a week of laying the groundwork at meetings at the AMPTP headquarters in Encino.

SAG leaders have insisted repeatedly they don’t want to strike. And some muted optimism has emerged from the first five days of bargaining as the talks remained cordial, with no public sniping.

But the two sides remain far apart on key issues and will have to start tackling those areas this week, when the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers are scheduled to meet every day through Saturday.

Negotiators met for five straight days last week before recessing Saturday afternoon and announcing that they would resume talks today. As with previous end-of-the-day announcements, both sides kept a lid on details and whether any progress has been achieved.

But it’s believed that much of the focus is on new-media compensation — which dominated the negotiations on DGA and WGA contracts earlier this year. Though the congloms have indicated that they will only sign a deal that follows the patterns set in the directors and writers pacts, SAG president Alan Rosenberg has insisted that SAG needs a better new-media deal and a sweetened DVD pact.

What’s unclear is how hard SAG will press its positions since its members who work on TV shows took a hit during the 100-day WGA strike and may be reluctant to go out again.

In additionally, SAG’s under pressure to finish off a deal this week since AFTRA’s scheduled to start talks on its handful of primetime shows starting April 28. If SAG doesn’t have a deal at that point and AFTRA makes one, it could open the door for AFTRA to expand its coverage in areas of shared jurisdiction.

AFTRA split off from negotiating with SAG in late March, asserting it could no longer trust SAG leaders after a bitter dispute arose over actors on “The Bold and the Beautiful” seeking to decertify from AFTRA and sign with SAG. The two performers unions have long been at odds over jurisdiction and strategy.

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