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Studios, SAG mum after latest meeting

Hollywood studios and SAG have met three times since the studios said contract negotiations were over, but neither side is speaking up about what's being discussed.
/ Source: Reuters

Hollywood studios and the Screen Actors Guild on Wednesday held their third meeting since the studios declared an end to contract negotiations, but the two sides parted company again without any public comment.

The uncertain outcome of the session came as the stalemate between SAG and the studios’ bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, dragged into its third week with no final act in sight.

“A small group from AMPTP and SAG met today. Both parties agreed that the contents of the meeting should be kept private,” the producers alliance said in a terse statement, adding that no further meetings were scheduled.

A corresponding message from SAG likewise said both sides agreed to keep their interaction confidential, adding only that the meeting lasted for two hours.

The contract at issue covers the work of 120,000 SAG members in prime-time TV and movies, an industry still reeling from a 14-week screenwriters strike that ended in February. A strike by the actors is widely seen as unlikely, for now.

The old SAG contract expired hours after the studios presented the union with their “final” offer as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition on June 30.

The parties met again on July 2 for what they described as a question-and-answer session about the studios’ 43-page proposal, which management says is worth more than $250 million in additional compensation to actors over three years.

SAG then delivered a counteroffer during a four-hour meeting on July 10 that ended with the studios refusing to give any ground and insisting that SAG submit the industry’s latest proposal to union members for a vote.

SAG leaders have so far been unwilling to do so, saying the studios’ offer -- mirroring terms endorsed July 8 by the smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in a separate TV-only contract -- falls short in several areas.

SAG, for example, has sought higher residual payments for actors from DVD sales and to extend its contract coverage to all made-for-Internet programming, even low-budget productions exempted under the AFTRA deal that SAG opposed.

The studios said on Tuesday that SAG leaders requested the latest meeting without revealing their intentions in advance. The AMPTP insisted then that it would attend “solely for the purposes of listening to whatever SAG has to say.”

So far, SAG leaders have played down the likelihood of calling a strike, a move that would require a 75 percent vote by members. Many industry watchers doubt SAG could muster the support needed in light of lingering fatigue from the recent writers’ work stoppage and growing economic uncertainty.

Much of the entertainment industry already has slipped into a de facto strike mode, as major studios have halted most of their film productions to avoid costly labor disruptions. But according to Daily Variety, studios are now considering moving forward with new film projects before a settlement is reached.

For the time being, actors are working under the terms of their old contract.