SAG-AFTRA leaders are planning to begin contract negotiations next year  on a successor deal to its feature-primetime contract  — rather than this year.

No date has been set for the start of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for the successor to the current master contract, which expires June 30. Both the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA declined comment.

But  several insiders have said privately that they are expecting the union to hold its “wages and working conditions” meetings in February. Those meetings are required for the union to formulate its proposals for the negotiations.

Additionally, SAG-AFTRA co-president Ken Howard gave an explicit indication the talks will take place next year in an endorsement letter issued Thursday for the New York-based United Screen Actors Nationwide and Mike Hodge for New York Local President.

“Early next year we begin contract talks for Film, TV, Cable, and New Media and no one will fight harder to protect actors than Mike Hodge and USAN,” Howard said.

SAG-AFTRA — formed 15 months ago by the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists –will hold its first election this summer, followed in late September by its first convention.

The apparent decision to wait until next year to begin negotiations with the AMPTP contrasts with the situation in 2010, when the performers unions reached an agreement nearly eight months prior to expiration. SAG and AFTRA were the first unions to make a deal during that cycle, followed by the Directors Guild of America, then the Writers Guild of America.

The DGA and WGA had no comment as to when negotiations might take place but the DGA is further along in its planning. In February, it named Michael Apted and Thomas Schlamme as co-heads of its negotiating committee.

Paris Barclay, named on June 22 as the new DGA president, said at that point that the negotiating committee had not yet met.

As with SAG-AFTRA, the current DGA deal expires June 30 while the WGA master contract ends May 1.  The WGA has tended to opt for starting negotiations closer to expiration than its counterparts, based on the idea that bringing that time pressure on employers improves the odds of achieving the best deal.

The DGA has shown a preference for making a deal without an expiration looming, often by more than six months. That strategy reflects the notion that the companies will opt for the best terms at that point in exchange for the assurance of labor peace.

During the last round of negotiations in 2010 and 2011, the unions’ key gains came in increasing the amount of employer contributions to the health and pension plans — which are operated separately from the unions and are overseen by a board comprising equal numbers of reps from the companies and the unions.

The SAG-AFTRA negotiations are likely to include discussions of the expressed desire by leaders to merge the separate SAG and AFTRA health and pension plans.