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SAG says studios offered more to smaller union

The Screen Actors Guild is accusing the major Hollywood studios of offering a contract deal worth less than an agreement tentatively approved by the leaders of a smaller actors union.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Screen Actors Guild on Wednesday accused major Hollywood studios of offering the union a contract deal worth less than an agreement already approved by the leaders of a smaller actors union.

SAG made the claim amid demands in Hollywood that it end the possibility of a strike or lockout by accepting the same deal as the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

“When we came back to the table, what they offered us, then and since, is tens of millions of dollars less than the AFTRA deal itself,” SAG executive director Doug Allen told The Associated Press.

“It’s obvious that they are trying to get us to bargain up to a deal they already know is unacceptable,” he said.

SAG declined to provide details on the differences between the offers.

The contracts of both unions are set to expire Monday. The lack of a deal has left studios reluctant to greenlight major movie productions.

Jesse Hiestand, a spokesman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, declined to comment on the bargaining position of the studios.

“We are approaching the conclusion of the process,” he said. “The bargaining continues.”

SAG represents 120,000 actors in movies, TV and other media. The TV and radio federation represents 70,000 members, including actors, singers, announcers and journalists. SAG and AFTRA share 44,000 dual members.

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SAG president Alan Rosenberg also note that SAG must negotiate terms for actors in movies roles who are not covered by AFTRA.

“We have to go back and keep bargaining. People in their fatigue don’t understand that,” Rosenberg said.

The guild also said the AFTRA deal did not address product advertising woven into scripted scenes.

Months ago, SAG had vowed to gain a better contract than its sister union. It has since focused on such areas as residual payments for DVD sales, mileage reimbursement and fees for Internet content.

Allen said studios have rejected a request to increase the mileage reimbursement for actors driving to off-studio locations. The guild is asking for 40 cents a mile, up from the current 30 cents, a level unchanged since 1980.

“They said if we did that for you, we’d have to do it for the crew,” Allen said. “And we said, ’What’s wrong with that?”’

SAG is urging the 44,000 actors who are members of both unions to vote against the AFTRA contract because its approval would handcuff ongoing talks between SAG and the studios.

Results of the AFTRA ratification vote are expected to be announced on July 8.

AFTRA spokeswoman Kelly Mullens said SAG should focus on its own deal.

“SAG hasn’t won any increases for its members — perhaps because it’s been too busy trying to undermine the AFTRA deal to be able to negotiate one of its own.”

Allen said SAG is hoping for a deal immediately but was willing to negotiate past the end of the contract without calling for a strike vote by members.

SAG and AFTRA split acrimoniously in March over accusations of member poaching and decided to negotiate with the studios separately for the first time in 27 years.

A flurry of ads has split actors. Jack Nicholson, Josh Brolin, Holly Hunter and others support SAG’s tactics. Others including Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey have urged support of the AFTRA deal.

A guild ad expected to run Thursday in two trade publications calls on AFTRA to return to the bargaining table with SAG to fight for a better deal.

Last week, AFTRA executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth denounced the offer, saying SAG’s anti-AFTRA campaign has all but disintegrated the trust required for joint bargaining.