SAG-AFTRA Commercials Strike Looms


As if actors needed more bad news about labor talks, there's this: SAG and AFTRA leaders are considering sending out strike-authorization ballots unless negotiations with advertisers on a new commercials contract improve quickly.

A labor insider says reps for the advertising industry are asking for "radical" rollbacks, including the elimination of the traditional pay structure on national broadcast commercials and caps on contributions to the unions' pension and health plans. Labor negotiators also are concerned about a proposal to extend the working day to 10 hours from eight, thus reducing overtime pay.

If strike-authorization ballots are sent out, they would be distributed jointly by SAG and AFTRA to members of both labor organizations, whose negotiating committee for the commercial talks is evenly comprised of reps from both unions.

The negotiating committee is made up of 13 AFTRA members and 13 SAG members, seven of whom come from SAG-Hollywood.

SAG-Hollywood is dominated by the oft-militant MembershipFirst faction, which comprised a majority of the onetime negotiating committee on SAG's long-running film and TV contract talks. That SAG committee was replaced by a task force under chief negotiator John McGuire following the dismissal of SAG executive director Doug Allen.

Labor insiders say it's become something of a pattern in commercials talks for management negotiators to play hardball until a strike-authorization vote is held.

But there are new challenges in the current set of talks that represent a worrisome wild card should negotiations remain strained. Most notably, ad-industry negotiations want to implement a new payment system based on a Booz Allen Hamilton study suggesting actors are overpaid for national commercials and underpaid for work on cable TV and Internet ads.

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