LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Screen Actors Guild said Saturday it will ask its members to authorize a strike after its first contract talks in four months with Hollywood studios failed despite the help of a federal mediator.
The guild said it adjourned talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers shortly before 1 a.m. after two marathon sessions with federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez.
SAG, representing more than 120,000 actors in movies, television and other media, said in a statement that it will launch a “full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization.”
“We have already made difficult decisions and sacrifices in an attempt to reach agreement,” the statement said. “Now it’s time for SAG members to stand united and empower the national negotiating committee to bargain with the strength of a possible work stoppage behind them.”
The statement did not specify what led to the impasse, saying only that “management continues to insist on terms we cannot responsibly accept.” A SAG spokeswoman said she would not comment further. A call to the movie producers group, known as the AMPTP, was not immediately returned.
SAG’s national board has already authorized its negotiating committee to call for a strike authorization vote if mediation failed. The vote would take more than a month and require more than 75 percent approval to pass.
SAG is seeking union coverage for all Internet-only productions regardless of budget and residual payments for Internet productions replayed online, as well as continued actor protections during work stoppages
But the AMPTP said it was untenable for SAG to demand a better deal than what writers, directors and another actors union accepted earlier in the year, especially now that the economy has worsened.
Earlier this week, the producers’ group said it had reached its sixth labor deal this year, a tentative agreement on a three-year contract with the local branches of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts, accounting for 35,000 workers.
The stagehands alliance accepted Internet provisions that were modeled on agreements with other unions, the producers group said.
Actors in prime-time television shows and movies have been working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30, with the hope of avoiding a repeat of the 100-day writers strike which shut down production of dozens of TV shows and cost the Los Angeles area economy an estimated $2.5 billion.
This statement on the SAG website:
Screen Actors Guild AMPTP Mediation Fails
SAG Seeks Strike Authorization
Los Angeles (Nov. 22, 2008) — Screen Actors Guild today issued the following statement in response to the failure of federal mediation:
“Our leadership was optimistic that federal mediation would help to move our negotiations forward, but despite the Guild’s extraordinary efforts to reach agreement, the mediation was adjourned shortly before 1:00 a.m. today.
Management continues to insist on terms we cannot responsibly accept on behalf of our members. As previously authorized by the National Board of Directors, we will now launch a full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization referendum. We will further inform our members about the core, critical issues unique to actors that remain in dispute.
We have already made difficult decisions and sacrifices in an attempt to reach agreement. Now it’s time for SAG members to stand united and empower the national negotiating committee to bargain with the strength of a possible work stoppage behind them.
We remain committed to avoiding a strike but now more than ever we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers. The WGA has already learned that the new media terms they agreed to with the AMPTP are not being honored. We cannot allow our employers to undermine the futures of our members and their families.”
No timeline has been set for the mailing or return of the strike authorization ballots.
This from the AMPTP website:
November 22, 2008
Statement by the AMPTP
The AMPTP accepted the federal mediator’s invitation to meet with SAG in hopes of concluding our seventh major agreement of 2008. The Producers met for two days with SAG at the request of federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez. The parties were unable to reach an agreement and the mediator has adjourned the mediation process.
Here is the Hollywood Reporters Take:
Mediator unable to bring SAG, AMPTP together
No agreement after 27 hours of talks
By Leslie Simmons
Nov 22, 2008, 05:29 AM ET
SAG is inching closer to a strike.
After two days worth of round-the-clock meetings about 27 hours federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez was unable to bring SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers together to hash out a new TV/theatrical contract.
Talks broke off shortly before 1 a.m. today.
“As previously authorized by the national board of directors, we will now launch a full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization referendum,” SAG said. “We will further inform our members about the core, critical issues unique to actors that remain in dispute.”
No timeline was given on when materials would be sent out or a strike vote would be taken.
In October, SAG’s national board called in Gonzalez with the hopes of trying to get the AMPTP to start up negotiations again after a then-four month stalemate. The board also voted to give its negotiating committee the ability to ask for a strike authorization vote if the mediation fails. SAG needs 75% of its voting members to approve the measure in order to go forward with a strike.
SAG’s president Alan Rosenberg has previously said that a strike authorization vote does not necessarily mean the union will instantly go on strike. Rather, the union believes the strike authorization would be a useful bargaining tool and give it more leverage in the talks.
Up until Thursday, the two sides had not met with each other since mid-July, when SAG responded to the AMPTP’s estimated $250 million final offer with a counter-proposal, which the studios rejected.
In a statement, the AMPTP said it “accepted the federal mediator’s invitation to meet with SAG in hopes of concluding our seventh major agreement of 2008. The producers met for two days with SAG at the request of federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez. The parties were unable to reach an agreement and the mediator has adjourned the mediation process.”
Day two of the meetings went on for about 15 hours, following a 12-hour session on Thursday, which was the first time the two sides had met. Over the course of the talks, SAG and the AMPTP kept mum about the meetings with Gonzalez, who asked both sides to adhere to a confidentiality agreement.
SAG put the blame on the AMPTP for the talks failing, stating the studios continue to insist on terms it cannot “responsibly accept” for its members.
“We have already made difficult decisions and sacrifices in an attempt to reach agreement,” SAG said. “Now it’s time for SAG members to stand united and empower the national negotiating committee to bargain with the strength of a possible work stoppage behind them.”
Given the unhealthy economic climate, the AMPTP has insisted SAG is not going to get a deal superior to what the other major guilds negotiated this year, including the WGA, DGA and AFTRA.
Coming into the mediation session, however, SAG was armed with the WGA’s recent arbitration filing against the AMPTP, which claims the studios have yet to pay up on the new media residual platform negotiated in its new contract.
The missing WGA payments include reuse of work for programs sold as electronic downloads, also known as Electronic Sell-Through, which involves the sale of video content online that allows the purchaser to keep a copy of the program permanently.
The AMPTP responded to the WGA stating, “The understanding we reached with the WGA was exactly the same as the one we reached with the DGA. The DGA deal calls for the new EST formula to apply only to motion pictures that are initially released in new media after the effective date of the new agreement. The producers are implementing the terms of the agreement we made with WGA, just as we have with the other 310 major labor agreements the AMPTP has made over the past 26 years.”
SAG’s sticking points have focused mostly on new media residuals.
“We remain committed to avoiding a strike but now more than ever we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers,” SAG said. “The WGA has already learned that the new media terms they agreed to with the AMPTP are not being honored. We cannot allow our employers to undermine the futures of our members and their families.”
And from Variety:
Nov. 22, 2008, 3:31am
Talks between SAG,AMPTP collapse
Mediator abandons effort to restart negotiations
By DAVE MCNARY
A strike by the Screen Actors Guild has moved closer to reality as talks between SAG and the majors have collapsed.
Federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez abandoned efforts to restart negotiations, according to an announcement by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers early Saturday morning.
“The parties were unable to reach an agreement and the mediator has adjourned the mediation process.”
The Screen Actors Guild and Gonzalez had no immediate comment. But the failure of the face-to-face talks means SAG’s negotiating committee will probably seek a strike authorization from members within the next few weeks.
SAG had requested the mediation on Oct. 19 and Gonzalez met twice with both sides before two days of talks started on Thursday morning. The confab marked the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides in four months.
SAG and the congloms met well into the night on both Thursday and Friday at the Sherman Oaks headquarters of the AMPTP. Gonzalez had insisted on confidentiality but indications were that little progress was achieved as each side reiterated their previous positions without any notable changes.
Both sides have remained far apart on the key issue of compensating actors for new-media work and reuse on the Web. SAG’s “threshold” issues — announced two months ago — include new-media jurisdiction for all productions, rather than the $15,000-per-minute budget threshold the majors propose; securing residual fees for made-for-Internet productions when those productions are reused on new-media platforms; and continuing force majeure protections for actors, which the majors have sought to eliminate.
For its part, the AMPTP has contended repeatedly that it won’t change the final offer to SAG — issued June 30 as SAG’s master contract expired — and stressed that the offer’s terms are similar to those in this year’s deals with the WGA, DGA, AFTRA, IATSE and casting directors.
IATSE reached its deal on Wednesday after nine sessions. SAG and AMPTP negotiators met in more than 40 sessions starting in April before talks broke off on July 16.
SAG’s negotiating committee has the power to ask the guild’s 120,000 members for a strike authorization, which would require 75% approval by those voting for the guild to go out on strike. SAG’s national board gave the negotiating committee that power on Oct. 19 as part of its decision to seek mediation.
Supporters of seeking a strike authorization believe that doing so represents the only effective strategy to push the majors toward sweetening the final offer. The threat of a work stoppage carries the threat of disrupting studio plans to ramp up production early next year.
SAG’s strategy of holding out for a better deal received backing of 87% of slightly over 10,000 members voting in a September postcard poll, which the AMPTP derided as bogus. It’s uncertain if SAG members would offer the same level of support amid a worsening economy.
Additionally, the WGA’s recent accusation that the majors haven’t lived up to the new media terms of their agreement may serve to persuade SAG members to endorse a strike authorization. The AMPTP has emphatically denied the allegations by the WGA, which has filed for arbitration.
SAG’s estimated that it would take 30 to 45 days to conduct a strike authorization vote. The final decision on striking would rest with the national board, where control shifted to a less assertive coalition in September elections and away from the more aggressive Membership First faction.
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