SAG Slams Producers' Offer as 'Regressive, Damaging'

Length of Contract Now the Sticking in Battle Between Actors and Producers

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- The Screen Actors Guild voted late Saturday to reject the "last, best and final" offer from Hollywood's studios and networks, calling the offer "regressive and damaging," and taking an already wild and meandering labor negotiation into truly uncharted territory.

While previous talks had broken down over the content of the deal the producers had proffered, this time negotiations are faltered over the deal's duration.

Last Thursday the producers issued an ultimatum that included a provision stating that the new three-year contract would be active from the moment it was ratified, rather than backdated to the time the previous contract expired -- June 30 of last year. That would mean the contract wouldn't expire until spring 2012. Because agreements with the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America expire in spring 2011, such timing would not allow the actors' guild to work together with its sibling unions to get a better deal next time.

Voting by a nearly 3:1 margin, the SAG national board refused the ultimatum, and said that the producers' demand for a new contract that would run to 2012 "clearly signals the employers' unwillingness to agree to the deal they established with other entertainment unions."

Producers did not disagree with that, but instead blamed a foundering U.S. economy, which means that they "cannot offer SAG a better deal than the rest of the industry achieved under far better economic conditions than those now confronting our industry."

Close to 'three-strikes' synchronicity
In a statement released to the media, a SAG spokeswoman dismissed that rationale, insisting that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers "intends to deleverage our bargaining position from this point forward."

All three of Hollywood's creative labor unions -- the DGA, WGA and SAG -- have long sought to synchronize their contracts' expirations for maximum leverage. In Hollywood labor circles, such coveted contract synchronicity is referred to as "three strikes and you're out," a reference to the devastating effect an industry-wide work stoppage would have on the media conglomerates.

Producers, by contrast, have sought to stagger the expiration of their contracts with the three major guilds, thereby ensuring that they would not have to negotiate with their adversaries simultaneously. But the fact that SAG has been operating without a contract for nearly eight months now means that all three major labor contracts would expire within months of each other.

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