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SAG-AFTRA to Seek Strike Authorization Vote, Citing ‘Outrageous Rollbacks’ in Contract Talks

SAG-AFTRA has decided to seek a strike authorization vote from its membership amid contentious film and TV contract talks with the major studios — unless a deal is reached by June 30.

The performers union said in a message to members Sunday night that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has pushed for “outrageous rollbacks” in the negotiations that began May 31. SAG-AFTRA’s current master contract for film and primetime TV expires June 30. The union has about 160,000 members.

The SAG-AFTRA constitution requires that 75% of those voting approve the strike authorization for it to be effective. The AMPTP has not responded to a request for comment late Sunday.

SAG-AFTRA’s national board voted unanimously on Sunday to seek the strike authorization vote, following an update from the union’s negotiating committee. SAG-AFTRA reps say the contract on the table covers 160,000 members working in primetime TV and film.

“We have presented reasonable proposals to address the critical concerns facing our members and that are integral to making a living in this industry,” read the message signed by SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and David White, national exec director and chief negotiator. “The AMPTP has responded with outrageous rollbacks that cut to the core of our basic terms and conditions. Despite our efforts, the AMPTP has failed to move on our most critical issues. The status quo is simply unacceptable and our members, standing together, will not give in to management’s onerous demands nor back down on our critical proposals.”
The missive contained no specifics as to which areas had created the disputes with the companies. SAG-AFTRA has never revealed its specific proposals to its members and it agreed with the AMPTP to conduct negotiations under a news blackout.
The union has revealed on its web site that the growth of streaming giants Netflix and Amazon is a key concern.

“This is a time of extraordinary entertainment and media industry profits,” it said in its “frequently asked questions” sectino of the site. “Global online distributors like Netflix, and now Amazon, are expanding the market for scripted film and television across the globe. Management’s demands will mean more for less – more hours, more work, more unreimbursed travel and less opportunity for fair compensation.”

“There is unprecedented consumer demand for content and record industry profits. Actors are among the key drivers of the industry’s monumental success and should receive appropriate compensation, benefits, and standing on par with their overall contribution. Only a fair contract agreement will ensure this.”

Sunday’s message to members was the first disclosure by the union about the negotiations since they began. It also did not indicate the timetable for when members will be asked to vote for the strike authorization.

 “After a comprehensive update from the negotiating committee, the National Board of Directors today unanimously voted to authorize sending out a strike authorization referendum to SAG-AFTRA members, unless a satisfactory agreement is reached by June 30, 2017,” Carteris and White said.

“A strike authorization is not a strike. It is a powerful tool that authorizes your negotiators to call a strike if they are unable to secure a fair deal. If a strike authorization referendum is issued, you will receive additional information on the voting process. That said, our negotiating committee will use this tool if necessary.”

SAG-AFTRA’s move is an echo of the tension that arose in March and April between the AMPTP and the Writers Guild of America. The WGA West and WGA East received overwhelming support from its members for a strike authorization vote as contract negotiations appeared to stall in April. As the industry girded for a work stoppage, the sides reached a deal with barely an hour to go until the May 1 contract expiration deadline.

 The WGA’s negotiations centered on adjustment to compensation formulas driven by the changes in the series TV market, primarily the shift to shorter episode orders (less than the 22 episodes per season norm of broadcast TV) for cable and streaming programs. SAG-AFTRA is believed to be dealing with some similar issues in its talks.
SAG-AFTRA’s previous round of film and TV contract talks went four days past the expiration date in 2014.
SAG-AFTRA has been on strike against 11 top videogame producers — including Activision, Electronic Arts, Disney, and Warner Bros. video game units — since Oct. 21, 2016.

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