Sag Pens Strike Letter
After news of a draft letter seeking a strike authorization vote emerged Tuesday, SAG’s David White and AFTRA issued a statement downplaying the importance of the document and asserting that they remain optimistic about reaching a deal as negotiations enter week three. “This is one of many contingency documents that we prepare in the course of any negotiations, particularly as we approach the expiration of a contract,” they added.
Reps for neither unions nor ad biz were available for further comment Tuesday, as both sides have agreed to a news blackout.
Unlike their dealings with Hollywood’s majors, in the commercials talks, the Screen Actors Guild has returned to joint bargaining with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. The unions’ unified front against Madison Avenue stands in sharp contrast to the public battle that erupted between them last summer, when AFTRA opted to negotiate its primetime TV pact separately from SAG for the first time in nearly 30 years.
The tense talks with advertisers and talk of a strike authorization vote raises the specter of the bitter six-month strike that SAG and AFTRA, who have about 150,00 members combined, staged over a commercials contract nine years ago.
Insiders close to the commercials talks said the unions and ad biz negotiators are tussling over three key points:
1) The industry’s proposal for a revamp to the compensation model based on gross rating points rather than the traditional pay-per-play method; the unions are asking for an “adjusted tier” model.
2) The industry’s proposed reductions of more than $20 million annually in contributions to pension and health plans.
3) Terms of a pilot study and whether it should be based only on the industry’s suggested compensation model without an equal study of the unions’ preferred compensation model.
“From the first day of the negotiations, it has been our intention to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides,” said the draft letter, penned by members of the joint negotiating committee. “The issues at stake in these negotiations are critically important and require that we bring our full bargaining power to the table by passing this referendum to authorize a strike in the field of television and radio commercials.”
All contract expire March 31.