July 12, 2008 / 12:45 AM / 10 years ago

Hollywood studios and actors deadlock on "final" offer

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In Hollywood, even “final offers” seem to get sequels. The Screen Actors Guild on Thursday delivered a counter-bid to the contract proposal major studios had presented the union last week as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, and the two sides spent a few hours discussing their positions before parting company again.

A general view shows the Screen Actors Guild National Headquarters in Los Angeles, July 9, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A statement issued afterward by the studios’ bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said SAG leaders had “put labor peace at risk” by refusing to accept the industry’s latest offer.

SAG’s chief negotiator, Doug Allen, disputed the industry’s account, telling Reuters the union had come back to the studios with a “comprehensive” response “that made a major move in their direction.”

Sources from both sides said the four-hour session, which they described as cordial, ended with SAG negotiators saying they would meet among themselves and contact the studios on Friday if there were anything more to discuss together.

The contract at issue covers the work of 120,000 SAG members in prime-time television and movies, an industry still recovering from a 14-week screenwriters strike that ended in February. The old labor pact expired hours after the studios presented SAG their “final” offer on June 30.

The producers alliance urged SAG’s leadership again on Thursday to submit their offer — a package the studios say is worth $250 million in additional compensation over three years — to the union’s rank-and-file for a ratification vote.

“The last thing we need is a long, hot summer of labor strife that puts even more pressure on a badly struggling economy and deprives audiences of the entertainment they clearly desire in such difficult times,” the industry group said.

While the studios insist the time for negotiations is over, they have yet to declare a formal impasse that would permit them to impose their terms, nor have they set a deadline for a settlement. SAG leaders say a deal remains to be made through bargaining.

“At some point, there’s going to be an agreement and you can’t get to an agreement without a negotiation,” Allen said after Thursday’s session.

The studios’ latest offer to SAG essentially mirrors the terms of a separate TV-only deal ratified on Tuesday by members of the smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or AFTRA.

The AFTRA deal won approval despite an all-out campaign by SAG to persuade some 40,000 of its members who belong to both unions to reject the settlement, which SAG leaders have branded as inadequate.

SAG leaders have played down the likelihood of calling a strike, a move that would take weeks to organize and require a 75 percent vote by members.


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