Actors unions, studios await contract vote results

Mon Jul 7, 2008 2:21am EDT
 
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By Leslie Simmons

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Hollywood's still holding its breath.

The potential for a strike by the Screen Actors Guild or a possible lockout of the union's roughly 120,000 members by the studios will be greatly influenced by the results of rival union AFTRA's contract ratification vote. Ballots are due back Monday with the results expected to be announced Tuesday.

Since it announced its tentative deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the bargaining arm of the studios, AFTRA has been engaged in a battle with SAG, which is urging shared members to vote the contract down. SAG says the unions could get a better deal if they negotiated together.

Most industry watchers believe a majority of AFTRA members will vote to ratify the deal. In that case, SAG would be the only major guild left without a pact -- the directors and writers signed off on deals earlier this year, the latter coming after a 100-day strike -- and would see its negotiating leverage significantly reduced.

"If this passes, it will undermine the ability of the Screen Actors Guild to negotiate a decent contract. It will be a civil war," one dual cardholder member said.

SAG is the larger of the two unions. AFTRA's membership is at 70,000 and is comprised of a variety of talent such as actors, broadcasters, radio announcers, sound recorders and dancers. The two unions share 44,000 members who are actors.

SAG spent 42 days negotiating with the AMPTP, but did not reach a deal by the June 30 contract expiry date. The AMPTP, however, made what it termed a final offer to the union six hours before the contract expired. The offer mirrors the tentative deal with AFTRA.

SAG leaders spent the Fourth of July weekend studying the studios' offer. On Wednesday, SAG negotiators met with the AMPTP for a late afternoon meeting to ask questions about the offer. No deadline for a response to the offer has been set by the AMPTP. The two sides met for an informational session last week, but SAG has made no formal response to the offer, and the studios have set no deadline.   Continued...

 
<p>The famed Hollywood sign at the hills in California, March 14, 2008. The potential for a strike by the Screen Actors Guild or a possible lockout of the union's roughly 120,000 members by the studios will be greatly influenced by the results of rival union AFTRA's contract ratification vote. Ballots are due back Monday with the results expected to be announced Tuesday. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>