SAG agreement closer, but not imminent


Reports from Hollywood say the studios have made a concession which eliminates a major barrier to reaching a new contract with the Screen Actors Guild. But the offer to SAG is not without a hitch.

Hopes for a quick settlement after a more moderate faction gained control of the union were dashed in February when the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) threw in a new demand that the contract run three years from now, rather than from when the previous contract expired last year. That would put SAG out of sync with other Hollywood unions in their contract negotiations – and the move was firmly rejected by the SAG board.

The Los Angeles Times reports that back-channel negotiations have gotten the studios to withdraw that demand. However, in return, AMPTP wants SAG to agree to settle so-called force majeure claims it filed last year seeking more than $10 million in pay for actors who lost work during the Writers Guild of America’s 100-day strike against the studios. What’s not clear is how much the studios want those claims for back pay reduced.

According to the LA Times, SAG interim Executive Director David White and Chief Negotiator John McGuire are willing to accept the trade because having the contract expiration aligned with other unions is so important. But such a deal with AMPTP is likely to face tough opposition from SAG hardliners.

No new formal negotiations have been announced, so it’s not likely that any contract agreement will come soon. SAG’s National Board is set to meet next April 18-19.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Handel notes in his Digital Media Law blog that if there’s no settlement in the next couple of months, this could drag out past October. “Candidates for SAG board and the SAG presidency will probably be announced in July, and the campaigning will continue through close of balloting in mid to late September. During that time, candidates will be nervously jockeying for position. The one thing they’re not likely to be doing is making tough compromises in order to close a deal with the studios,” Handel noted.