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Breaking: SAG Rejects AMPTP Offer

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dave McNary of Daily Variety reports:

SAG’s still not ready to close a deal with the majors — signaling that the thesps’ contract stalemate will linger on into the late summer.

Guild on Thursday officially rejected the final offer by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on grounds that the pact falls short in such areas as new media and DVD residuals, along with product integration and force majeure protections.

“Today’s meeting demonstrated that SAG’s Membership First contingent unreasonably expects to obtain more in these negotiations than directors, writers and other actors obtained during their negotiations. AMPTP has already achieved four major labor agreements this year,” the AMPTP said. “The refusal of SAG’s Hollywood leadership to accept this offer is the latest in a series of actions by SAG leaders that, in our opinion, puts labor peace at risk.”

At a Thursday afternoon meeting at AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks HQ, the AMPTP responded to SAG’s turn-down by calling on the guild to put the final offer to a vote of SAG’s 120,000 members.

SAG’s official rejection of the final offer and AMPTP’s request for a membership vote sets the stage for a possible move by the majors to declare the sides to be at an impasse and impose the terms and conditions of the new offer.

AMPTP continues to assert that the SAG’s insisting on sweeter terms than those achieved in the recent contracts ratified by DGA, WGA and SAG’s rival AFTRA.

SAG’s rejection came even though its strike threat has waned due to the ratification on Tuesday of AFTRA’s primetime pact despite SAG’s fervent lobbying of its 44,000 members who also belong to AFTRA. Because of the high hurdle SAG faces in getting 75% of its members to back a strike, speculation is mounting in the biz that studios may gamble on moving forward with new feature productions despite the uncertainty created by the SAG contract limbo.

SAG’s previous contract expired on June 30.

In the days leading up to Thursday’s meeting, SAG leaders had given every indication that the guild was going to spurn the AMPTPs deal. The congloms say their offer, made a few hours before SAG’s contract expired last week, contains more than $250 million in pay increases over three years — with terms matching the just-ratified AFTRA primetime deal.

SAG’s rejection came two days after it lost leverage by failing to defeat the AFTRA deal, which was approved by 62% of those voting. And Thursday’s rejection imperils the guild’s prospects of obtaining an additional $10 million for members via a retroactivity provision that takes effect if the guild ratifies the deal by Aug. 15.

In addition, AFTRA’s now free to cut into SAG jurisdiction by signing new TV shows shot on digital to its deal.

Although the majors may move soon to impose the new contract terms, there’s a growing consensus that they may not opt to go with the impasse strategy. That route contains the potential drawback that SAG would probably be able to go to court and tie up implementation of the new terms and conditions.

Instead, the lack of resolution plus SAG’s failure to defeat the AFTRA deal have led to a growing consensus among producers that SAG’s not going to strike — as long as the congloms don’t inflame the situation by locking out actors.

For SAG, the 75% support required in a strike authorization vote is a longshot given the worsening economy, the lingering hangover from the WGA strike and SAG’s inability to persuade enough of its 44,000 members who also belong to AFTRA to vote down that deal. A strike authorization vote would take about three weeks.

Producers had pulled the plug on most film shooting by June 30 due to the uncertainty over a SAG strike.

But more than a dozen TV series and pilots remained in production along with some of the 355 indie features that signed guild waivers — and with SAG looking unlikely to strike, that activity may begin returning to normal levels sooner rather than later.

One attraction for companies pondering that route at this point: productions would be shot under the less expensive terms and conditions of the expired SAG deal.

Posted: 19:51 PT 07/10/08


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