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SAG-AFTRA Targets Spring for AMPTP Contract Talks

Union chief Ken Howard to serve as chief of negotiating committee

SAG-AFTRA is planning to launch its master contract talks with the studios in the spring. The union has set its first official step with the “wages and working conditions” meetings dated for Jan. 27 and March 14.

The union has not set a timetable for its negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on a successor deal to its contract covering features and primetime TV. That deal expires June 30.

The AMPTP had no comment.

SAG-AFTRA announced Tuesday following a two-day national board meeting that SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard was named national chair of the negotiating committee, which will begin its work as the TV/Theatrical Contracts Wages and Working Conditions Plenary Committee.

Howard had already disclosed in June that negotiations would not start until 2014.

The current master contract for the Directors Guild of America also expires June 30 and the Writers Guild of America deal runs out on May 1. No negotiations have been set for either of those contracts either.

The DGA, which named Michael Apted and Thomas Schlamme as its negotiating committee co-chairs in February, has usually gone first in recent negotiation cycles.

The “wages and working conditions” process is mandated by the SAG-AFTRA constitution. It’s designed to enable the committee to formulate a contract proposal, based on guidance from members.

The negotiation is the first covering features and primetime since members of SAG and AFTRA voted overwhelmingly to approve the merger in March 2012. Merger proponents campaigned for the combo on the grounds that the combined performers union would have more clout at the bargaining table.

The new union reps about 165,000 performers.

SAG-AFTRA reached a new three-year deal in April on its commercials contract with the advertising industry, calling for a 6% wage hike and for Pension and Health contributions to increase from 15.5% to 16.8%. The contract, which currently covers about $1 billion in annual earnings, will see increases in payments of $238 million over its term.

Prior to the negotiations, the union held the required “wages and working conditions” meetings with members to formulate its proposal but made no subsequent efforts to mobilize the members about the issues — a sharp contrast with efforts in 2000, when SAG and AFTRA struck for six months against the ad industry.

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