SAG, AFTRA Unite for Ad Talks

LOS ANGELES Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are finally on the same page.

The newfound harmony comes not on the subject of SAG’s long-stalled contract negotiations with Hollywood studios but rather the actors unions’ next round of talks with advertising industry groups.

AFTRA leaders have told SAG president Alan Rosenberg that AFTRA would be willing to bargain jointly with SAG on their respective memberships’ next commercials contracts.

“We have been authorized to extend an offer to return to joint negotiations for the upcoming commercials contracts under the terms of the Phase One agreement,” AFTRA president Roberta Reardon and national executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said in a letter disclosed Monday.

For decades, Phase One had provided for joint bargaining on all sorts of SAG and AFTRA contracts, until AFTRA shelved the agreement before the start of film and TV talks with the studios this year.

But on Monday, SAG and AFTRA were arguing only on whose idea it was to get back together for the commercials negotiations. SAG said Monday that AFTRA’s letter to Rosenberg was in response to an offer SAG made to its sister union in July regarding the prospect of joint negotiating on the commercials contracts.

“In spite of the fact that AFTRTA did not respond prior to our July 26, 2008, board meeting, as we requested, the SAG national board of directors authorized Screen Actors Guild to participate in a Phase One joint negotiation,” Rosenberg and SAG national exec director Doug Allen said in a letter to AFTRA leadership Monday.

The current contracts covering SAG and AFTRA members on commercial work expires on Oct. 28. In 2006, the unions granted a two-year extension to current agreements with the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies to allow time for a study on new-media compensation.

“Despite our institutional differences — characterized grossly inaccurately and with great hostility by you in your letter — our offer to negotiate together stands,” the SAG leaders wrote. “We await your response.”

Meanwhile, it also was disclosed that Reardon and Roberts Hedgpeth had contacted AFL-CIO president John Sweeney to seek federation mediation in lingering disagreements between AFTRA and SAG.

The squabbles trace to turf disputes over the past couple years that ultimately derailed Phase One and AFTRA’s joint bargaining with SAG on a new prime-time TV contract. AFTRA hammered out an agreement on its own, which was passed by members despite SAG efforts to defeat the pact.

“This complaint arises from SAG’s wholesale attempts to eliminate AFTRA as a bargaining representative for actors by launching a massive campaign to defeat the ratification of a national collective bargaining agreement negotiated by AFTRA, undermining AFTRA’s established collective bargaining relationships through raids and the solicitation of grievances and trying to persuade AFTRA employers to take work that historically has been performed under AFTRA contracts and have it performed exclusively under SAG contracts,” the AFTRA leaders wrote in a letter to Sweeney circulated Monday.

Despite the allegations, the union is ready to sort out its problems with SAG, the AFTRA leaders said.

“In the interest of longer-term considerations, AFTRA is prepared to explore the remedial conditions necessary to make it possible for AFTRA to conduct joint bargaining for the commercials contracts under Phase One with SAG,” Reardon and Roberts Hedpeth said. “In order to have confidence that the unacceptable behavior and actions of SAG ceases — especially while the parties are attempting to prepare and develop a healthy and effective approach to negotiations — we are asking the AFL-CIO to resume the process.”

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