True Blood Season 2 Filming Continues as SAG Board Rejects Tainted New Deal

February 22, 2009 by  

True Blood Season 2 filming continues as the new deal brought to the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) on Saturday was quickly rejected as expected. New talks of strikes by the contentious Members First branch of SAG were just as quickly rejected by the board as such a vote by the full membership is unlikely to pass in such tough economic times.

In an attempt to take advantage of the infighting that has been plaguing SAG, the producers added a ‘new’ condition that the deal must go for three years from the time of settlement instead of from the date of the old deal. This is a clear attempt to permanently separate SAG and AFTRA negotiations thus reducing the leverage of both unions. AFTRA split from SAG this past summer, taking the almost unchanged deal that SAG is now likely to accept if this new hurdle can be overcome.

The attempt at leveraging a better deal for The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) puts into question whether the producers are negotiating in good faith as this was not discussed during the meetings with the federal mediators last year.

“We simply cannot offer SAG a better deal than the rest of the industry achieved under far better economic conditions than those now confronting our industry,” the AMPTP said.

This statement is confounding because the sticking point has nothing to do with SAG getting a better deal as the new negotiators, in place after months long legal and political wrangling, have signaled a willingness to accept the current industry standard pay scale for work done strictly for new media such as DVD and internet productions.

While the only likely next step would be behind the scenes negotiations or ‘back-channel’ talks, such discussions are likely to drag on for months more. Currently, SAG has continued to work under the terms of the old contract. It is possible that the studios could attempt to simply put into place the new terms without any signed agreement but this would not seem to be to their advantage as the new offer has some slight improvements in pay and conditions as compared to the currently expired contract SAG members have been working under. Even more unlikely would be that the studios would lock out the actors until a contract is signed. This would hit the studios as hard as SAG and they are still not recovered from last years Writers guild strike.

There is hope, now that Doug Allen and Alen Rosenberg have been ousted and replaced by a committee headed by John McGuire, that Robert Iger (Disney CEO) and Peter Chernin (News Corp president) could reengage the discussions in an attempt to iron out a deal. After helping DGA and WGA (the Directors and Writers guilds) achieve a contract last year they attempted to help SAG as well but quit when Allen and Rosenberg made it clear that they were not willing to accept the same deal that the rest of the industry took. The new SAG committee has signaled a willingness to accept that deal but doesn’t wish to be split off from other guilds timelines for negotiations for fear of losing negotiating clout.

It’s not entirely out of the question that SAG will continue to work without a deal going forward and hope to rejoin the other guilds in hammering out a contract two years from now. This would paint Allen and Rosenberg and their supporting Members First contingent as completely tone deaf as to the wishes of the majority of its’ members and highlight the foolishness of standing firm against the deal while AFTRA moved to sign.

SAG and AMPTP both put out official statements and are refusing to comment further. Here is the text of the two statements:

Statement by the AMPTP

The Producers’ offer is strong and fair – and has been judged to be strong and fair by all of Hollywood’s other major Guilds and Unions. We have kept our offer on the table – and even enhanced it – despite the historically unprecedented economic crisis that has clobbered our nation and our industry. The Producers have always sought a full three-year deal with SAG, just as we negotiated with all the other Unions and Guilds, and have offered SAG a way to achieve an earlier expiration date without contributing to further labor uncertainty. We simply cannot offer SAG a better deal than the rest of the industry achieved under far better economic conditions than those now confronting our industry.

STATEMENT FROM SAG NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS — SAG NATIONAL BOARD REJECTS AMPTP LAST, BEST AND FINAL OFFER

Los Angeles, (February 21, 2009) – The Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors today voted 73% to 27% to “reject the AMPTPs last, best and final offer dated February 19, 2009.”
We entered this round of negotiations sending an unmistakably clear message that we were ready to make a deal. In an effort to put the town back to work, our negotiator agreed to modify the Guild’s bargaining position to bring the Guild in line with the deals made by our sister unions. The AMPTPs last-minute, surprise demand for a new term of agreement extending to 2012 is regressive and damaging and clearly signals the employers’ unwillingness to agree to the deal they established with other entertainment unions. The demand for a new term of agreement was not part of their final offer of June 30, 2008; it was not part of the federally mediated talks of November 2008, and should not have been inserted into the discussions when we returned to negotiations on February 17, 2009. What management presented as a compromise is, in fact, an attempt to separate Screen Actors Guild from other industry unions. By attempting to extend our contract expiration one year beyond the other entertainment unions, the AMPTP intends to deleverage our bargaining position from this point forward. Screen Actors Guild’s goal is to successfully complete these negotiations and get the industry back to work as soon as possible. The AMPTP has clearly stated their need and desire for financial certainty and industry peace. This new proposal does the exact opposite, and will only result in constant negotiating cycles and continued labor unrest.

Sources:
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2009/02/sag-1.html
http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/02/22/sag.talks/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-handel/sag-rejects-studio-offer_b_168895.html
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118000436.html?categoryId=13

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