SAG, AFTRA Agree to Extend Contracts

Negotiations Buy Time, but Long-Term Outlook for Commercials Still Cloudy

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Just in time for Labor Day, a labor cease-fire: TV commercials are safe for another six months -- but after that, things get dicey.

Late Wednesday evening, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists and the Screen Actors Guild announced they had reached an agreement to extend their commercials contracts with the ad industry. That stopgap adds six months to a deal that was set to expire Oct. 29, but does little to quell fears of more labor strife.

Barely speaking
That's because the extension was not jointly bargained, AFTRA's Los Angeles national office spokesman, Chris de Haan, said, nor -- to the chagrin of advertisers -- has an agreement been reached for SAG and AFTRA to bargain jointly with the ad industry, which fervently wants to avoid the confusion of two separate commercials contracts with the actors unions: Some 44,000 SAG members are also part of AFTRA, which has almost 70,000 members.

"There's a value to bargaining jointly, and we want to get there, but we're definitely not there yet," Mr. de Haan told Advertising Age.

(Mr. de Haan's statement contradicts earlier media reports of Aug. 19 in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter which claimed that the actors unions had already agreed to negotiate their ad contracts jointly. In fact, while SAG's national board of directors authorized the guild to participate in a joint negotiation, AFTRA's has not.)

At loggerheads
In recent months, the two unions have become infamous for not agreeing with each other on anything. This year, for the first time in 27 years, fierce acrimony over jurisdictional issues between the two guilds resulted in separate negotiations for the prime-time TV and theatrical contract. AFTRA reached a deal with film and TV producers, but SAG's contract talks with film and TV studios are still in limbo, along with much of the town's film production.

Both AFTRA and SAG spokespersons declined to comment about the commercials contract extension, and Lesley Weiner, a spokeswoman for the Association of National Advertisers and the ad industry's Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Relations, did not immediately return a call and an e-mail seeking comment.

Privately, though, insiders at AFTRA say that a request for a facilitated discussion mediated by the AFL-CIO has been made in an effort to restore trust between the two unions, but that no reply has been made by the AFL-CIO as yet.
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