Studios slam SAG
- Studios slam SAG
Majors 'set the record straight' on Website
By DAVE MCNARY
The gloves have come off in the contract negotiations between the
majors and Screen Actors Guild.
With the SAG talks going nowhere fast, the majors have gone on the
offensive by criticizing the guild's demands as unreasonable and
unrealistic. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers
made the assertion at midday Wednesday in a negotiations update to
members titled "Setting the record straight" posted on the AMPTP
Though the language was more measured and respectful than the harsh
tone often employed by the majors during the writers strike, the
AMPTP's message was clear: Unless SAG backs off its demands on DVD
and new media soon, it can forget about a deal even if thesps go on
And that raises the scenario of rival performers union AFTRA making a
deal as early as next week and then capitalizing on that pact by
expanding its coverage of primetime TV skeins -- at SAG's expense.
The AMPTP's decision to go public with the sticking points in the
talks so far appears to be aimed at provoking SAG moderates to
pressure guild leaders to make a deal as soon as possible rather than
stringing out negotiations toward the June 30 expiration.
In a posting on its website, SAG disputed the AMPTP assertion that it
"The AMPTP knows that we did not state that they had to agree to all
of our non-new-media proposals," it said. "We expect the AMPTP to
negotiate in good faith, and we will do the same."
The current round of talks, which launched April 15, are scheduled to
conclude Friday. The majors were already set to begin negotiations
with AFTRA on Monday. If SAG goes on strike with an AFTRA deal
already in place, AFTRA could offer the incentive to AMPTP member
companies of continuing with TV production if their new shows sign
Traditionally, the thesp unions have divided the landscape by
granting SAG jurisdiction over all shows shot on film while AFTRA
covered all electronic production, a la talkshows and gameshows; the
prevalence of digital production on primetime skeins has, however,
blurred those distinctions.
SAG hasn't yet asked its 120,000 members for a strike authorization,
and it's uncertain when it would return to the bargaining table after
this week. AFTRA's viewed as much more likely than SAG to sign a deal
as its leaders are less assertive than SAG's, and it has already
incorporated some of the WGA and DGA new-media terms into its network
code deal, signed in early March.
AFTRA announced late Wednesday that its members had "overwhemingly"
ratified the net code deal. And the current SAG and AFTRA situation
-- with AFTRA set to make the new-media deal for actors -- resembles
the DGA-WGA dynamic of several months ago in which the less-militant
DGA hammered out the terms, which were then largely mirrored in the
subsequent WGA pact.
And though the studios have stressed that the talks with SAG have so
far been cordial, the six-page update issued Wednesday made it clear
that little progress has been achieved since last week's announcement
that the AMPTP was giving SAG an extra week to close the "significant
gaps" between the two sides.
"Candidly, we must offer the same assessment of the negotiations
today," the AMPTP said. "Although both parties have spent
considerable time in the negotiating room, we are not yet close to an
The key complaint stems from SAG's unwillingness to adhere to the
pattern set in the DGA and WGA deals. SAG national exec director Doug
Allen and president Alan Rosenberg had said repeatedly in the run-up
to talks that the guild wasn't interested in following the pattern --
and it appears they have not backed off that position even with the
talks in their third week and a June 30 contract expiration approaching.
After 13 days at the bargaining table, the AMPTP blamed SAG for
having thrown a monkey wrench into the process by rejecting what it
called "the framework for new media" that was established in the DGA,
WGA, and AFTRA network code pacts.
"Last week, SAG indicated that it would be willing to live within the
existing new-media framework -- but only with more than 70 changes to
the framework, some of which would go a long way toward making the
framework unworkable," the AMPTP said.
The companies also said SAG had insisted that it would agree to the
new-media terms only if the AMPTP accepted all its other demands in
traditional media -- a point that SAG disputes.
"Unfortunately, these demands -- including a doubling of the existing
DVD formula and huge increases in compensation and benefits -- would
result in enormous cost increases that we are not willing to accept,"
the companies said.
"The SAG Basic and TV agreements are mature labor pacts for mature
business. In such circumstances, employers in other industries
typically negotiate reductions and efficiencies to reduce costs. We
are not seeking to do this. But we cannot responsibly accept the
unprecedented double-digit increases in DVD residuals and conditions
sought by SAG or wage hikes that in some cases reach 200%."
It's understood that SAG's backed off on its earlier demand for a
shorter promotional window for streamed shows. The WGA and DGA deals
provide that no residuals have to be paid on streaming for the first
17 days for TV series (24 days on new shows) -- a deal point the WGA
also fought but begrudgingly accepted for the sake of settling the
It's understood that SAG's also perturbed over what it sees as more
than 30 changes sought by the AMPTP in the new-media language.
The AMPTP also delivered a point-by-point refutation of the four SAG
messages to members. SAG says earnings are declining, but the AMPTP
says they've risen by 24% since 2003; SAG says it wants a
"reasonable" rate on DVD residuals, but the AMPTP maintains that
SAG's demanding a $500 million per year hike; and SAG says it takes
more work to qualify for its health plan, while the AMPTP says the
benefits would be "the envy of middle-class Americans."
SAG said in its website response that it stands by its research.
"We are not surprised that the employers dispute the economic
hardships that actors are facing," the guild said. "You know better.
We will not negotiate this contract in the press. Instead, we are
focused on reaching a fair contract that addresses your needs as
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Posted: Wed., Apr. 30, 2008, 11:57am PT