Who will make a move? The National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild voted 68-0 to support the stand of its contract negotiators, who are insisting that the studios agree to SAG jurisdiction over all new media productions, regardless of cost. AMPTP, representing the studios, is standing firm that its “final offer” should be put to a vote of SAG members. There’s no talk of a strike, but neither is their any indication of a settlement.
Television production has apparently not been impacted much yet, with SAG members continuing to work under the terms of the contract that expired June 30th – not to mention that some TV production is under AFTRA, which has signed a new contract with AMPTP. But it’s a different story for moviemaking, where no studio wants to start a new project that might come to a grinding halt if there is a strike.
AMPTP claims that its offer, which SAG leaders refuse to put to a vote of the membership, would pay SAG members $250 million in increased wages over three years, although the union says that figure overstates the truth. In any case, the studios have put a counter on the AMPTP website tallying the lost pay from not accepting the contract – a tally that was well over $6 million yesterday. The studios say that amount will be paid retroactively, but only if a new contract is approved by August 15th. So, that’s one deadline.
Another is September 18th, when SAG members elect their national board of directors. Two slates are competing. MembershipFirst, whose slate includes many incumbent board members, is backing the current strategy. Unite for Strength, which blames the current board for the stalemated talks, is hoping to claim a majority of the board with its own slate and seize control of the union – presumably returning to the negotiating table with the studios and working to heal the rift with AFTRA.
RBR/TVBR observation: It’s hard to guess what could end this stalemate. The studios are not likely to give SAG terms that are dramatically different from the contracts already cut with other creative unions. SAG members would have to be nuts to vote for a strike in the current economic environment. Is someone going to come up with a solution?