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SAG leaders oppose MPTF closures

Support for motion came from Membership First

Elected leaders of the Screen Actors Guild have opposed the closure of the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s nursing home and hospital.

The national board narrowly approved a motion Saturday with 51.7% supporting, following presentations from MPTF execs and the Saving the Lives of Our Own coalition. Most of the support for the motion came from the Membership First faction.

MPTF execs have asserted repeatedly since the surprise announcement in January that the worsening economy has left them with no alternative but to close the money-losing facilities. And they’ve stressed that the fund will continue to operate its independent and assisted-care facilities in Woodland Hills and half a dozen health centers in the Los Angeles area — along with modernizing the Woodland Hills campus and expanding its medical and social services for industry retirees.

Supporters of the 100 patients being transferred and the 290 MPTF staffers being laid off have contended that the fund is not fulfilling its obligation to patients.

SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg said, “The MPTF’s significant financial and operational concerns were absolutely heard, but after hearing the presentations from both sides of the issue, our board voted to oppose the closing and did so to try and preserve the legacy of the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Long Term Care historic commitment, in honor of the screen actors who founded it — Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin.”

In other actions Saturday, 95% of the national board endorsed a two-year basic-cable live-action agreement, which will expire concurrently with the feature-primetime agreement on June 30, 2011. The pact, which still must be ratified by members, includes a 3% hike in salary minimums in its first year and 3.5% in the second along with a 0.5% gain in pension contributions upon ratification.

SAG’s board also unanimously approved joint negotiations with AFTRA for the industrial and education contract. AFTRA split angrily from SAG last year and negotiated its primetime deal separately, but the two unions mended fences and jointly negotiated the commercials contract earlier this year.

The board also voted to postpone the automatic increase of the initiation fee this year. It would have hiked the fee by $69.

“The automatic increase in initiation fees would have made the cost of joining SAG more difficult for actors across the country, particularly in this difficult economic period,” said interim national exec director David White. “This action recognizes the stark reality facing professional actors and helps to keep the possibility of membership within reach of those who wish to join.”

Current fee to join is $2,335, with an initiation fee of $2,277 plus a semiannual basic dues payment of $58.

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