March 20, 2006, 4:52pm PT
Producers strike back
Perturbed filmmakers rag on SAG
By DAVE MCNARY
Hollywood producers have hit back at the Screen Actors Guild over the prospect of a strike.
SAG has managed to perturb producers by asking members for strike authorization over its basic made-for-cable contract rather than accept a 14% increase.
Producers announced Monday that SAG had spurned its offer, which would align residuals compensation with the formulas used by the DGA and the WGA, and hadn’t set a date for resuming contract talks. SAG’s seeking strike authorization at five caucuses this week for members who work the cable contract, including meetings Monday in Chicago, Miami and San Francisco.
“SAG’s reaction is surprising,” said Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. “The offer that’s on the table should close the deal.”
Nick, Baby, the good Ol’ Days of the “Go-alongs-to-Get-alongs” are over!
SAG shot back by pointing out that the contract hasn’t been revised in 16 years while basic cable revenues have increased by 500%.
“The 14% increase touted by the industry may sound impressive until one realizes, for example, that it’s less than a $5 raise per run for a day performer who must find a way to support their family and qualify for health insurance each year based on those earnings,” SAG spokesman Seth Oster said.
Counter disclosed details of the offer Monday, seven weeks after contract talks launched under a news blackout. The producers have been negotiating individually rather than as part of the AMPTP, but Counter said last week’s strike authorization announcement by SAG prompted the AMPTP to become involved in terms of coordinating strategy.
“The AMPTP has chosen to get involved because of the potential for a strike,” Counter added.
Yeah, like they haven’t been involved until now!
He also asserted that the producers’ offer will give thesps a more favorable package than DGA and WGA because SAG’s current compensation doesn’t include a discount for non-network programs. The DGA and WGA pacts provide such a discount of more than 30%.
What he don’t mention is that the DGA/WGA have had their deal in place for Five Years. And while actors get a whooping $7.16 after the 13th run, DGA/WGA members bring in $240 bucks!
Counter also tweaked SAG for dragging its feet and negotiating in the press.
Better dragging our feet, than shaking in our boots. Speaking of which, Nick are your toes Wiggling?
“What is most perplexing is that the producers of these programs have agreed to meet and finalize an agreement on this basis, but have gotten no response from SAG,” he said. “Au contraire, they read in the trades that SAG is asking for a strike authorization vote.”
Hmmm, and that obviously got their attention!
Under the current contract, SAG performers receive 12% of the minimum of $716 for the first rerun, down to 1% for the 13th rerun and beyond. The producers’ offer would boost that first rerun figure to 17% and adjust the other percentages to match the figures in the DGA and WGA deals — moves that would boost overall compensation by 14%, according to Counter.
Oster said SAG plans to return to the bargaining table once it completes the caucuses.
“The members of the Screen Actors Guild entered these negotiations in good faith and with a sincere desire to reach an equitable agreement with producers,” he added. “That remains both our hope and goal, so we look forward to resuming these negotiations in good faith following our member caucuses.”
Approval of a strike authorization would be the first step toward a work stoppage on basic cable.
SAG’s leaders would still have to OK a strike.
SAG president Alan Rosenberg, who won the office on a platform of more assertive bargaining, is the negotiating committee chair on the basic cable deal. The pact covers such programs as “Monk,” “Strong Medicine,” “The Closer,” “The Shield,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Wildfire” and “Nip/Tuck.”
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Once again here’s the info on those caucuses!
GUILD TO HOST IMPORTANT CAUCUSES IN SAN FRANCISCO, MIAMI, CHICAGO, NEW YORK & HOLLYWOOD
A Strike Authorization Vote on the Basic Cable Live Action Agreement will be Taken at Each Meeting All paid-up* Guild members who work under the SAG Basic Cable Live Action Agreement (The Closer on TNT, The Shield on FX) or paid-up members interested in these negotiations are urged to attend.
The Guild has been negotiating with producers for several months, yet the producers’ last offer does not reflect the extraordinary growth of the cable industry.The Basic Cable Live Action Contract has not been negotiated in 16 years. During this time, cable network revenue has grown by almost 500 percent.
Our members deserve a fair increase in residuals.Your participation is vital to the future of this contract. Any member from any branch or division may attend one of the caucuses. You must attend in person to vote. Bring your membership card. No RSVP necessary.
*All active members in good standing whose dues are paid through the November 2005 (November 1, 2005-April 30, 2006) dues period.CAUCUS DATES:
SAN FRANCISCO: 1-2:30 p.m. (PST) Monday, March 20, 2006350 Sansome St. #900San Francisco, CA 94104For more info about the San Francisco caucus call Clarissa Buck at (415) 391-7510
MIAMI: 6-7:30 p.m. (EST) Monday, March 20, 20067300 N. Kendall Dr., Suite 620Miami, FL 33156For more info on the Miami caucus call Karen Weiss at (305) 670-7677 ext.224
CHICAGO: 7-8:30 p.m. (CST) Monday, March 20, 2006McCorkle Court Reporters200 N. LaSalle St., Suite 300Chicago, IL 60601For more info about the Chicago caucus call (312) 573-8081 or (312) 867-3710
NEW YORK: 6-8 p.m. (EST) Wednesday, March 22, 2006360 Madison AvenueLeon Janney Board Room (14th Floor)New York, NY
HOLLYWOOD: 4-6 PM (PST) Sunday, March 26, 2006 Harmony Gold Theater 7655 Sunset Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90046(Parking available underground and on Stanley – as well as on the street)
*All Formatting is SW’s.
Hollywood Reporter story:
March 21, 2006
SAG heading toward strike authorization
By Jesse Hiestand
Industry negotiators questioned Monday why SAG was unwilling to accept a new basic cable contract that would raise their residuals to the same rate as the WGA and DGA.
The comments by Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, came only hours before SAG members in San Francisco, Miami and Chicago took a strike-authorization vote. A similar vote in New York on Wednesday and a final one in Los Angeles on Sunday also will determine whether union leaders have permission to call a strike, giving them leverage in negotiations.
Counter said AMPTP, which was not involved in the talks until the prospect of a strike arose, was surprised SAG sought strike authorization instead of responding to the latest offer. The producers insist the offer is richer than it seems because SAG already gets higher initial compensation than the WGA or DGA, whose basic cable compensation is “discounted” by about 30% from their network television rates.
“We were attempting to schedule another day (of bargaining), and they went to get a strike vote,” Counter said. “We were quite surprised given what was offered to SAG. We brought them up to parity with writers and directors and don’t understand why we don’t have a deal.”
SAG officials said the answer is simple: The contract has not been renegotiated in 16 years, and what is on the table is unacceptable. Actors’ minimum rates have risen 35% in that time period, while the cable industry has grown by nearly 500%, according to the union.
Union leaders said they gave the industry notice of their intention to seek a strike authorization and made it clear that it was a bargaining tool and not a declaration of intent. SAG officials also were frustrated that details of the negotiations have been made public and hoped that Counter’s comments would not escalate the rhetoric.
The strike authorization, which does not commit the union to a work stoppage, requires the support of at least 75% of those who vote.
Actors’ cable residuals are paid by a tiered formula, starting with 12% of initial compensation for the first rerun and descending to 1% for the 13th and all subsequent runs.
The industry has offered to immediately raise the initial residual to 17%, the same rate in the WGA and DGA contracts. While the payments would continue to diminish with each subsequent rerun, Counter said actors would enjoy an overall residual hike of 14%.
“The 14% increase touted by the industry may sound impressive until one realizes, for example, that it’s less than a $5 raise per run for a day performer who must find a way to support their family and qualify for health insurance each year based on those earnings,” SAG officials said in a statement Monday. “The members of the Screen Actors Guild entered these negotiations in good faith and with a sincere desire to reach an equitable agreement with producers. That remains both our hope and goal, so we look forward to resuming these negotiations in good faith following our member caucuses.”
SAG is separately negotiating a cable animation contract that appears to be far closer to resolution than the basic cable deal. Both contracts expired Feb. 28.
SAG is negotiating the basic cable contract with representatives of about 10 shows, including “The Shield” on FX, “Monk” on USA Network and “The Closer” on TNT. The contract is expected to provide a template for other basic cable live-action series.
The current offer to SAG is not necessarily the final offer, but industry negotiators appear reluctant to sweeten the deal since they consider it a fair one.
In announcing the strike-authorization votes, SAG told its members that “the producers’ last offer does not reflect the extraordinary growth of the cable industry” (HR 3/16).
Raising residuals has been SAG’s top goal in these talks.
The basic cable contract dates to 1986, when SAG and Paramount reached an agreement over the series “Sanchez of Bel Air.” While the scope of the contract has been expanded to cover other series, its basic terms have essentially remained the same since the inception.
The union also believes that it deserves higher residuals because the cable industry has enjoyed a 16.7% compound annual growth rate, from $2.5 billion in 1994 to $13.5 billion last year.