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SAG Declines Action Against Chief Negotiator

13 Jan, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Efforts within the Screen Actors Guild to oust its chief negotiator, Doug Allen, from further contract talks with the studios failed when the national board Jan. 13 declined to take “substantive actions” following a 30-hour meeting.

A coalition of guild members had drafted a resolution calling for the termination of Allen, dissolution of the negotiating committee and rescinding a proposed strike authorization vote. The group, backed by actors Tom Hanks and George Clooney, among others, had sought to prevent the first actors strike in 20 years and restart labor talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and TV networks.

Allen and SAG President Alan Rosenberg had said they planned this week to mail ballots to the guild’s 120,000 members seeking strike authorization. Success hinges on 75% membership approval, which many consider a long shot in the current economy.

Actors and producers have been working under the previous contract, which expired June 30, 2008.

“After analyzing the document, Screen Actors Guild’s in-house and outside counsel have concluded that the document does not constitute a valid written assent, for several reasons, including a lack of sufficient signatures and the absence of any language on the document demonstrating the intent of the signers to grant their assent to the proposal,” Rosenberg said, in a statement.

Rosenberg said Allen and the negotiating committee remained committed to advancing the cause of actors and “our crucial contract negotiations.”

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 and contentious prospect.

In addition to increased minimums, pension and health care provisions, the new contract presented by the AMPTP offers 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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