Producers, actors talk about early April

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Formal talks between SAG/AFTRA and the AMPTP could begin as early as the first week of April if all goes well at three scheduled meetings between the two actors unions to hammer out wages and working conditions proposals for a feature-primetime contract.

On Wednesday, Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, offered to start talks March 31 during a regularly scheduled meeting at SAG's headquarters with the guild's national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen and his AFTRA counterpart Kim Roberts Hedgpeth. The meeting was set weeks ago to discuss "administrative issues" related to the 2008 contract talks, sources said.

Allen said Wednesday, "We need to consult our board, AFTRA and the joint SAG/AFTRA board before we can respond to the AMPTP." AFTRA confirmed that the meeting took place but declined to comment further.

In discussing the upcoming calendar, Counter proposed the first week of April for formal talks because it immediately follows the March 25 and 26 joint wages and working conditions committee meetings with SAG and AFTRA members and a national board meeting with the actors unions March 29, sources said. The actors' contract with the AMPTP expires June 30.

If all goes well at the March 29 meeting -- during which members develop the proposal package to take to bargaining table -- the "Phase One" process could be complete, opening the door to early-April talks.

AFTRA has been pushing SAG to agree to early talks with the AMPTP and has threatened to start negotiations on its own if SAG did not officially confirm to continue with the process leading up to formal talks, known as Phase One.

Up until Tuesday, when the late-March meetings with AFTRA were announced, the most SAG had said is that it would begin talks with the AMPTP after March 31.
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