‘No Progress’ on SAG Strike Talks

Two-Day Meeting Fails to End Impasse on Three-Month-Old Strike
NEW YORK–Representatives of the striking actors’ unions and the advertising industry met face-to-face here last week in an attempt to resume negotiations over the actors’ commercial contract.
Held last Thursday and Friday, the meetings failed to resolve conflicts over the payment of residuals, the main bone of contention for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
“We made no progress at all,” said Ira Shepard, labor counsel to the Joint Policy Committee on Talent Union Relations, representing the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers. “Their proposal was not only a nonstarter, but a step backward.”
The main stumbling block over residual payments has yet to be resolved. Advertisers have proposed extending a flat-fee pay structure used for cable spots to spots broadcast on network television. Actors, meanwhile, want the residual pay-per-play network structure to extend to cable. “It’s now obvious that the ad industry’s main concern here is not the particular issues in this contract. They’re stalemating on them,” stated AFTRA’s chief negotiator Mathis Dunn in a prepared statement.
Meanwhile, the unions claimed that 33 Fortune 500 companies, are working with the estimated 1,700 signatories to continue using union talent without having to settle.
At least one major client, Ford, is staying out of the fray, suspending commercial production until the strike is over. The move came after union members picketed a Young & Rubicam Lincoln-Mercury shoot last month. The actors accused the company of racism for allegedly using blackface on a white stunt driver during filming. Carolyn Brown, a Ford representative, called the incident “unfortunate” but said the practice of disguising a driver’s face in a car shoot is common practice to keep viewers’ attention on the car and not the driver.
Evidence of the strike’s impact on the creative product can be found in TV spots on air. J. Walter Thompson, for instance, set aside a successful tack for Qwest Communications, owing to its reliance on character actors. Instead, the agency shot aerial footage in Iceland, adopting a more ethereal approach.
And three months into its new “Got the urge?” campaign for Burger King, Lowe Lintas & Partners is using three voices to read copy in one spot. Previously, actress Kathleen Turner was the sole voice, but due to the strike, the agency had to use other talent, sources said.–with Mallorre Dil