SAG needs time to analyze offer

Another meeting with AMPTP to be set next week

With actors working under a contract that expired a day earlier, SAG officials met Wednesday with studio reps for roughly four hours, discussing details of what the studios called their "final offer."

SAG insiders say the guild told the AMPTP that they needed more time to study the offer and that another similar session would be set next week.

The break for the Fourth of July holiday means that before they meet again, both sides likely will know the results of AFTRA's contract-ratification vote, the results of which are to be released Tuesday. The final offer that SAG has received mirrors the tentative pact that AFTRA members are voting on. SAG is urging its members who are also AFTRA members to vote down the deal.

The studios made clear in their final offer that Wednesday's session would be informational and that they would entertain no new proposals. Sources say the union used the time to clarify new language in the contract, focusing on the elements that differed from the AFTRA contract as well as those of the DGA and WGA, who signed off earlier this year.

It's unlikely that SAG officials found much to their liking in the studios' offer.

There still are several issues left out of the studios' offer, including the push to end SAG's 60 years of force majeure protections -- leaving it to the actor to negotiate on his or her own -- as well as DVD residuals and mileage reimbursement.

Still a major sticking point for SAG is the offers made in the area of new media. SAG repeatedly has told the public and its members that AFTRA's primetime/TV deal with the AMPTP is flawed and that it makes no significant gains for actors in new media, both in jurisdictional and residual areas.

Sources say the AMPTP's proposal does not include residuals for original new-media productions of any kind, except where the budget exceeds $25,000 per minute, which is similar to AFTRA's new deal. The AMPTP, however, indicates on a fact sheet that among the gains for SAG is jurisdiction and residuals for derivative and original made-for new media productions.

The jurisdiction model offered in new media also is similar to AFTRA's, which includes jurisdiction over programs made for new media that either have a budget of at least $15,000 per minute, $300,000 per program or $500,000 per series or employs a covered performer. It also includes residuals for derivative programs (inspired or based on an existing TV program) and defines a "covered performer."

For free, ad-supported Web streaming, AFTRA cut a deal similar to the DGA and WGA allowing programs to be available free for 17 consecutive days before residuals kick in. After that, if the program continues to stream within the first year, the contract establishes a residual pay structure for the actor.

"New media is still evolving, and both production and business models are in flux; therefore access to this kind of information which positions the union to revisit this entire area in three years from a solid base of knowledge is key," AFTRA's national executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth and president Roberta Reardon said in the contract packet mailed to members.

Although the AMPTP has not publicly detailed its new-media offer to SAG, a fact sheet from the group indicates that the offer includes establishing a residual platform for streaming TV programs and features.

The AMPTP says its SAG offer is comparable to AFTRA's on the contentious question of video clip use as well. It includes preserving a performer's consent over nonpromotional use of clips in new media and a "sunset clause" for future negotiations and provides the union full access to unredacted new-media deal memos.

But SAG during the past month has outlined the problems it sees with AFTRA's tentative deal.

According to SAG, AFTRA gave up residuals on made-for-new media productions, "except in one very narrow and very rare instance (only when produced for more than $25,000 per minute for a consumer-pay platform)." Additionally, SAG claims that AFTRA's deal "does not secure adequate residuals for television shows that stream over the Internet on an advertiser-supported platform.

"This is a huge problem for SAG members because the new-media platform could cannibalize some existing residuals models for both motion picture and television when product moves to the Internet," the guild has said.

SAG also has criticized the AFTRA pact for not making any progress in increasing residuals from DVDs or in the mileage reimbursement for actors, currently set at 30 cents per mile. The payment has not been increased since 1980, when gas cost about 75 cents a gallon.

Guild news releases state, "If Disney can pay Bob Iger $90 million per year, and the other companies can pay the fat packages they give their CEOs, SAG thinks they can increase the reimbursement for mileage so our members can get to the jobs."

AFTRA has defended its tentative deal, saying it has made significant gains for its members in several key areas, including new media.

But the AMPTP said that with tough economic times, SAG's deal is pretty good.

"For SAG to ignore the complete economic package and single out the mileage rate -- in an era when most people pay for their own gas to drive themselves to work -- is unfair and misses the point," the studios said in a statement.

If the studios agree to bump up the gas reimbursement to what the IRS suggests, 58.5 cents per mile, it would have to do so for all unions with similar reimbursements, including several IATSE guilds and the DGA.

AFTRA's position is that it's smarter economically for the union to use money in a proposal package for increases in wages and contributions to the union's pension and health fund.

Roberts Hedgpeth confirmed that mileage compensation was in early proposals but fell away during negotiations.

"If you look at it mathematically and soberly, the fact is the mileage rates only triggers under certain circumstances," she said. "In bargaining, are you going to take that money and divert it out of wages going to everybody and put that money in mileage that might trigger under certain circumstances for some people?

"At the end of the day, in any negotiation," she added, "you have to make choices about where you're putting your emphasis in the negotiations to make sure you're meeting the priorities of your members."
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