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Iger: No SAG Strike

31 Jul, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The Walt Disney Co. president and CEO Bob Iger

The Walt Disney Co. president and CEO Bob Iger said he doesn't believe there will be a work stoppage by actors despite the apparent negotiation impasse between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

SAG's national board of directors last week unanimously rejected the “final” labor contract offer from the AMPTP, which included $250 million in pay hikes and jurisdiction of new media.

The current contract expired June 30, but continues to be honored on an interim basis. The AMPTP said it would not alter its proposal.

In a financial call, Iger said he found SAG's refusal to accept the AMPTP offer “somewhat unfortunate” since similar contract offers to the Writers Guild of America (WGA), Directors Guild of America (DGA) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) had been accepted.

“We find it difficult to offer to SAG terms that are different than those terms that the other guilds agreed to,” Iger said. “The other [contract] terms that were offered were fair given the general economic circumstances and more than fair to [SAG] in particular.”

He said Disney has gone forward with a number of productions until conditions change.

“I think it would be a very difficult thing for a guild in this [economic] environment to take on and probably rather unpopular as well,” Iger said.

Producers have offered to extend SAG jurisdiction to original new-media production, including low-budget programs that employ a single “covered actor,” as part of the new contract.

The final offer includes provisions that would allow actors and producers to revisit new-media contract terms in three years to revaluate market conditions.

Doug Allen, SAG national executive director and chief negotiator, contends the AMPTP offer still has too few safeguards for actors.

“The problem is they're asking us to accept a deal that doesn't have the minimum standards necessary to protect actors and has negative consequences that could last for decades and really affect the professional actor in maintaining their lives and families without having a second or third job,” Allen said.

Separately, SAG's board passed a resolution reiterating that no non-union work would be authorized under any SAG agreement, including new media, during the interim period.

“For some time, we have been telling the industry how important it is for all new-media productions under our contract to be done union and how important residuals for made-for-new-media programming are when programs are rerun on new media,” Allen said. “I am very pleased that our national board … unanimously confirmed these essential principles in support of our national negotiating committee.”

The AMPTP contends SAG has permitted non-union Internet production under its contract since 2001.

Last month, New York SAG leaders criticized efforts by guild national leaders to fund an educational campaign aimed at undermining a recent contract settlement between AFTRA and AMPTP.

Usually operating under the SAG corporate umbrella, AFTRA leaders broke away and signed their own labor agreement with AMPTP that essentially mirrored previous deals between producers and the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America.

Those agreements included substantial pay hikes and jurisdiction on new media, i.e. Internet streaming and downloads, but ignored increased residuals for DVD, a long-running sore point to SAG leaders.

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