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Internal SAG Strife Postpones Studio Contract Talks

2 Feb, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Renewed contract talks slated Feb. 3-4 between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the union representing studios, have been postponed.


The negotiations, the first since last year, were put on hold after SAG president Alan Rosenberg notified the guild that he planned to file a lawsuit seeking to reinstate recently terminated chief negotiator Doug Allen.


Rosenberg, a strong supporter of Allen who was fired Jan. 26 and replaced by a new negotiating team headed by senior advisor John McGuire, together with SAG VP Anne-Marie Johnson submitted legal papers to the actors’ union insisting Allen be returned.


Former general counsel David White was named national executive director during the management shakeup.


“Screen Actors Guild today notified the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that the guild had received a notice of intent to file a complaint tomorrow,” SAG spokesperson Pamela Greenwalt said, in a statement. “In light of this circumstance, both parties have agreed to a postponement of their meeting and will reschedule at a later date. SAG has no further comment on the notice of intent received today or the postponement of tomorrow’s meeting.”


The litigation could result in a temporary stay and jeopardize efforts by the largely New York contingent of the SAG board to jumpstart contract talks with studios that have idled since the AMPTP made its final offer last year. Actors have been operating under an interim agreement since the previous contract expired last June.


“This could throw a sock in the works for months,” said Jonathan Handel, an industry insider who covers both unions.


Rosenberg last week decried the manner in which Allen was dismissed by a slim majority of the board.


“I believe I do speak for the nearly 48% percent of the board who are deeply concerned about what was done yesterday and about how these changes were accomplished,” Rosenberg wrote in an e-mail. “Allen was fired because he was simply too good, too strong, and too much a unionist.”


Rosenberg said Allen’s refusal to engage in “pattern bargaining,” whereby SAG would agree to previous labor agreements between writers, directors, stage workers and daytime TV actors and the AMPTP, doomed him with some members of the board.


“Doug gave us the courage to accept the fact that we had a legal right to pursue an agreement that addressed the specific needs of actors,” Rosenberg said.


Specifically the executive has argued actors should receive a better deal for new media, a stance he’s taken believing SAG members have been shortchanged for years in DVD residuals.


Actors are seeking greater compensation from Internet distribution, in addition to revamping the 20-year-old home video residual agreement, which studios have steadfastly refused to address. The agreement originally applied to VHS, but the subsequent arrival of DVD and Blu-ray made potential residuals a more lucrative prospect.


In addition to increased minimums, pension and health care provisions, studios are offering jurisdiction on new-media programs, in addition to first-ever residuals on ad-supported streams of movies, TV shows, permanent downloads (burn-to-disc), original and derivative new-media programs.




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