Jan. 15, 2005
By Jesse Hiestand
Less than a week after negotiations broke down, SAG/AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers said Friday that they will return to the bargaining table Wednesday to try to finish the new three-year contract.
An indefinite recess was declared Jan. 9, throwing the production community into high gear over the possibility that actors could strike on or before the June 30 deadline for the current agreement. Sources say the studios already were taking the first steps toward accelerating production so features would be completed before late June.
The two sides have perhaps until the end of the month to finish the deal before producers will begin to pull the plug on future projects because they can’t be guaranteed that union actors will be available.
Owing to an ongoing news blackout, the joint negotiating team of SAG/AFTRA and the AMPTP said they will resume the talks but did not elaborate.
The negotiators might be close to a deal, with only one or two final issues remaining, according to knowledgeable sources. One of those sticking points is believed to be DVD residuals, with the unions seeking a greater share of home video rental and sale revenue. It was not clear what the other potential issue was.
The AMPTP has refused to negotiate those terms with the WGA and DGA, leading to speculation that they will take a similar stance with the actors’ unions.
The studio negotiators have said that DVD residuals are so crucial to their finances that they are willing to risk a strike.
Negotiations involving SAG’s major TV/Theatrical contract and AFTRA’s Exhibit A opened Dec. 6 and covered about 10 days before breaking for the holidays. Five more days of bargaining ended Jan. 9 with an announcement that officials were not ready to make a deal on behalf of SAG’s 122,000 members and AFTRA’s 80,000 members.
The prospect of a production disruption is reminiscent of what AMPTP faced a year ago, when it started negotiating this contract with SAG/AFTRA but essentially postponed the talks for a year to turn its attention to major negotiations with the writers, directors and other Hollywood unions.
A similar situation played out in 2001, when the likelihood of a strike by SAG and/or the WGA drove studios to stockpile production. Those strike fears never materialized but led to months of production inactivity, or what was known as a “de facto strike.”
The Ol Watchdog predicts that those SAG/AFTRA negotiators including a minority of SAG negotiators in conjunction with a majority of AFTRA negotiators will accept a deal that will settle for little more than EXTRA money, while eschewing the SAG MAJORITY which has been battling to insure that members get their fair share of the Booming MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR DVD MARKET!
A.L. Miller Editor & Chief