Federally mediated negotiations between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Screen Actors Guild have broken down after just two days.
The AMPTP has blamed the SAG for being unwilling to accept the same deals that were concluded with other Hollywood unions, during what has been a tumultuous year in labour negotiations. “The mediation failed for one fundamental reason,” said the AMPTP in a release to its employers. “SAG continued unrealistically to insist on a substantially better deal than all of the other major Hollywood Guilds and Unions have negotiated so far in 2008. In the end, it was clear that SAG was not serious about using the mediation process to make a deal. Instead, SAG appears to have manipulated the mediation process in an attempt to achieve precisely the result it has wanted all along: a strike by SAG members.”
The SAG negotiating committee, for its part, has indeed decided to seek a strike authorisation from its membership in a statement on its website. “We have already made difficult decisions and sacrifices in an attempt to reach agreement. Now it’s time for SAG members to stand united and empower the national negotiating committee to bargain with the strength of a possible work stoppage behind them.” Despite the strong words now being employed by the actors’ union, however, it stresses that despite seeking authorisation for a strike, it is a bargaining chip more than an outright declaration of intent towards industrial action. “We remain committed to avoiding a strike but now more than ever we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers. The [Writers Guild of America] has already learned that the new media terms they agreed to with the AMPTP are not being honoured. We cannot allow our employers to undermine the futures of SAG members and their families.”
The SAG is speaking with reference to a recent situation unfolding between the WGA and the AMPTP, in which the former is seeking arbitration over what it claims is the latter’s failure to pay residuals owed to them in the terms of their contract, which provides for monies based off the electronic sell-through of programmes and films from the Seventies. The AMPTP disputes that any money is owed, and claims that the new deal only covers productions made from the beginning of this year.
With continued stalling in the negotiations, it seems more and more likely that a strike may occur until one side caves. The SAG requires a 75 per cent ‘yes’ vote on its strike authorisation ballots to wield the authority to call one, in a vote that all members are allowed (but not required) to participate in. Clearly, a strike would be disastrous for the US entertainment industry, particularly given the economic climate of recession. However, in terms of guaranteeing its members’ labour rights, it still remains the most potent weapon in the SAG’s arsenal, and if the negotiating committee receives an authorisation it is likely to change the playing field of these negotiations entirely.
The AMPTP has yet to comment on their dispute with the WGA.