Anxious year ahead as guilds head into contract talks
“Does Current sag-AFTRA Leadership have ’em when it comes to negotiating?”
Despite recent peace, Hollywood sees labor uncertainty
As for the DGA, its leaders have continued mostly to eschew public comment. That’s in line with the DGA’s long-standing effort to portray itself as a low-key operator with a close-to-the-vest strategy of coming to the bargaining table with well-researched proposals.
SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have blocked out seven weeks for negotiations between Feb. 14 and the March 31 expiration of their current deal. It will be the first major negotiation by SAG-AFTRA since the two unions’ merger — which supporters touted as a way to increase clout at the bargaining table, particularly amid the ongoing corporate consolidation.
Both sides have limited their public comment about the current commercials contract, which covers about $1 billion a year in annual earnings; they have not addressed the results of a two-year pilot study commissioned to test a revamp of compensation based on shows’ ratings rather than the current pay-per-play model.
SAG-AFTRA co-president Roberta Reardon, who has participated in every commercials negotiation since 1997, said she is impressed by the level of solidarity among members during the “wages and working conditions” process used by union leaders to hammer out contract proposals during the summer and fall.
The commercial talks will start nearly 13 years after the last SAG strike. In 2000, SAG and AFTRA struck for six months — still the longest strike in Hollywood history — over the ad industry’s unsuccessful demand that the pay-per-play system be replaced by quarterly buyouts.
The ad industry talks will be closely watched by Hollywood since they’re expected to offer an indication of how SAG-AFTRA leaders might handle negotiations with the AMPTP for the master contract covering work in movies and primetime TV.
“It’s going to be a year where we discover that solidarity, power and leverage are not just words,” Reardon said.
“Ah, yes, and we’ll also discover if our current leaders have the cajones to use those attributes!”
The DGA, SAG and AFTRA contracts covering that sector all expire on June 30, 2014, but the WGA contract runs out on May 1, 2014. The WGA’s leaders often opt to negotiate close to expiration in hopes that the looming threat of a work stoppage may encourage companies to make the best deal possible.
That’s at odds with the DGA’s strategy — also employed by SAG in the 2010 negotiations — to negotiate deals at least six months before expiration on the precept that the companies will offer the best terms in exchange for the assurance of labor peace.
In 2012 the town’s major below-the-line unions ratified three-year successor deals to their master contracts and jointly negotiated on health-care issues for the first time. The deals for the West Coast locals of Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Hollywood Teamster-Basic Crafts shored up funding shortfalls for the union’s pension and health plans.
Contact Dave McNary at email@example.com
The Ol’ SAG Watchdog
*photo added by SAG Watchdog