Studios reject SAG call to resume talks


Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild sent a letter to Disney’s Bob Iger, News Corporation’s Peter Chernin and the chief studio negotiator calling for renewed contract talks, citing a recent poll which found SAG members overwhelming opposed to the studios’ contract offer. But an almost immediate reply rejected the call for more talks and insisted that the “final offer” on the table should be put to a vote of the union membership.

“We do not believe that it would be productive to resume negotiations at this time given SAG’s continued insistence on terms which the Companies have repeatedly rejected,” said the response from J. Nicholas Counter III, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), on behalf of Chernin and Iger as well.

According to AMPTP, nothing has changed since the last meeting on July 16th. “Our Final Offer to the Screen Actors Guild is comparable to our agreements with the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America and AFTRA. Our Final Offer memorializes a set of compromises, including in the area of new media, worked out with other Guilds and Unions and particularly addresses actor specific issues raised during the Screen Actors Guild negotiations,” the letter said.

SAG leadership has declined to put that “final offer” to a membership vote. Instead, it cites a poll of union members which found 87.3% of the 10,300 members who responded wanted SAG to reject the AMPTP offer and fight for a better deal. However, that poll had participation by only about 10% of all SAG members.

The previous SAG contract with the studios expired June 30th, but members have continued to work on movies and TV shows without a new contract. The main sticking point has been over payments for new media distribution of material and union jurisdiction over programming produced specifically for new media outlets.

RBR/TVBR observation: This could just go on indefinitely. As the US economy looks worse and worse, there is little chance that the SAG membership would be crazy enough to vote for a strike. The studios are emphasizing the five contract deals already struck with other unions and have no reason to offer better terms to SAG. So the stalemate continues.