Actors unions butt heads over negotiations

Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:37am EDT
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By Leslie Simmons

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The bad blood between Hollywood's two major actors' unions reached Hatfield and McCoy levels during the weekend just as they prepare to negotiate new labor contracts for their members.

Saturday's stunning decision by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to negotiate its own deal with the studios rather than in partnership with the bigger and more-confrontational Screen Actors Guild (SAG) raises the question of which union will sit down first for formal talks.

The unions' TV-theatrical contract, which they have jointly negotiated for 27 years, expires on June 30. The studios, slowly recovering from the 100-day writers' strike, are fearful of another walkout and are delaying work on projects that could be interrupted in the summer.

The union that does not negotiate a new contract first with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) could find itself facing a bigger battle, depending on whether its proposals are greatly different than what was agreed upon by the other union.

AFTRA, whose contract covers 44,000 members of both unions, has been pushing for early talks all along, so it would come as no surprise if it were first to the table.

Both unions said Sunday that they would be getting in touch with the AMPTP within the next few days.

"Informal discussions are happening and we expect to set a timeline soon," AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said.

SAG executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen said the union plans to call the AMPTP Monday.   Continued...

<p>President of the Screen Actors Guild Alan Rosenberg speaks at the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 27, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>