April 15, 2008 / 10:03 AM / in 10 years

Hollywood actors, studios begin labor talks

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - After months of industrywide angst, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) will sit down Tuesday at the bargaining table with the Hollywood studios and the networks.

The outcome of the talks is critical to the recovery and ongoing viability of the TV and film business, which is slowly recovering from a 100-day writers strike that paralyzed the industry.

SAG, which has for decades jointly bargained with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), will go it alone this time. AFTRA on Monday rejected an 11th-hour offer from SAG to join in on the negotiations.

AFTRA suspended the so-called Phase One joint bargaining three weeks ago, claiming that SAG was trying to take over jurisdiction on the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

AFTRA will have two observers in the room Tuesday, as is standard for unions who will be bargaining with the same employers. SAG, for example, sat in on talks between the Writers Guild of America and the studios’ bargaining arm, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). SAG will, in turn, sit in on the talks between AFTRA and the AMPTP, scheduled to begin April 28.

SAG brings a large package of proposals to the talks, including a comprehensive residual platform for new media and an increase in the DVD/home video formula.

But the union has two weeks to cover all these bases before AFTRA begins its talks, and some experts say the two-week spread gives AFTRA an edge.

“I don’t think they’ll (SAG) get a deal in two weeks,” veteran New York labor negotiator and attorney Norman Samnick said. “The companies just won’t make a deal that SAG will agree to in a period of two weeks. AFTRA is a much more reasonable group.”

Samnick recently participated in AFTRA’s negotiations on its sound contract and that process was a “long tortuous road” that didn’t even delve into the proposals SAG is presenting.

But Los Angeles attorney Jonathan Handel believes SAG will move quickly on a deal because of the AMPTP’s date with AFTRA.

“I think AFTRA has checkmated SAG by setting up negotiations in two weeks,” he said. “They’ve undercut SAG by saying, ‘Look, you make your deal or else we’ll come in and make our deal, which is more accommodating.”’

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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