SAG Ready to Resume AMPTP Talks

Representatives of SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers are expected Tuesday to announce the resumption of their film and TV contract talks, most likely on Feb. 17.

On Monday, a group of below-the-line workers staged a rally outside SAG headquarters in Los Angeles.

Several dozen members of a group called Let’s Get Back to Work urged the guild to resume stalled film and TV contract talks and called for a speedy resolution of the negotiations impasse. They were joined for a while by SAG members connected to the MembershipFirst group, carrying placards demanding a fair deal from the AMPTP.

SAG members have been without a contract since June 30, and the possibility of an actors strike has slowed film production. SAG and AMPTP negotiators haven’t met since November.

The parties had tried to restart the stalled talks Feb. 3, but a legal action by SAG president Alan Rosenberg caused the bargaining session to be canceled. Rosenberg failed in a bid to obtain a temporary restraining order nixing the Jan. 26 ouster of SAG exec director Doug Allen. One-time SAG general counsel David White has been named as Allen’s interim replacement, and SAG senior adviser John McGuire will replace Allen as the guild’s chief negotiator for the talks with the AMPTP.

On Feb. 23, SAG is scheduled to begin negotiations with advertising-industry representatives on a new commercials contract, bargaining jointly with sister actors union AFTRA. So the guild would need to bang out a film and TV deal quickly with the AMPTP or postpone the start date on its commercials talks.

Labor-side insiders suggest it’s unlikely that the commercials negotiations will be delayed, with SAG and AFTRA members already working under a contract extension. So the question is whether the new SAG leadership will seal a deal in a matter of days or simply gain some renewed traction on film and TV bargaining before going breaking for the commercials negotiations.

Also Monday, an “open letter” purported to be written by Allen circulated on one or more entertainment blogs, with the former exec director defending SAG’s embattled president against critics.

“Alan Rosenberg has been called to task in recent weeks by some of the press and bloggers for being a ‘hard-line’ negotiator and for his comments regarding the state of the Screen Actors Guild and its negotiations with the AMPTP for a new contract with the studios and networks,” Allen wrote. “Alan may wear his heart on his sleeve, but his heart is in exactly the right place.

In the rest of the letter, Allen criticized AMPTP contract proposals.

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