SAG OKs joint talks with AFTRA

Unions' TV-theatrical contracts expire in June 2011

Labor is one step closer to harmony.

The Screen Actors Guild's national board approved a joint negotiating agreement on Saturday with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The vote was strongly in favor of re-merging for preliminary talks with the AMPTP later this year: 78% to 22%.

The vote was not unexpected. In late January, the SAG national board voted 82% to 18% in favor of a resolution pushing the national executive director and president to seek joint bargaining with AFTRA under the terms of Phase One. That deal, first agreed to in 1981, gives SAG and AFTRA 50-50 weight on the negotiating committee.

Two weeks ago, AFTRA's national board of directors unanimously approved joint bargaining with SAG on the guilds' TV-theatrical contracts under the old terms. This action reconstituted the guilds' long-standing dual negotiating strategy, which AFTRA broke away from in March 2008 during the previous contentious round of bargaining with employers.

After that move, AFTRA quickly cut its own deals with the AMPTP, while SAG waged a long internal war that delayed its contract resolutions for 15 months. When that agreement was finally reached, it included a provision that requires the guild to start seven weeks of contract negotiations with the AMPTP on Oct. 1. SAG and AFTRA's TV-theatrical contracts expire June 30, 2011.

"I applaud the board's action," said SAG president Ken Howard of Saturday's vote. "Bargaining together is a smart decision and voting up this agreement clearly serves the best interests of all SAG members. I'm grateful to the board and look forward to working with our partners at AFTRA toward a successful negotiation."

The official SAG motion reads: "It was moved and seconded that the National Board of Directors approves the joint bargaining agreement for the Television/Theatrical Contracts and instructs staff and counsel to finalize the language of the agreement substantially in the form presented."

Reps from the unions will meet in the coming days to finalize and execute the joint bargaining agreement, which will be similar to that used for last year's joint negotiations on the commercials contracts. The AFL-CIO facilitated No Raiding/Non-Disparagement agreement signed by both guilds last year will remain in effect for the TV-theatrical bargaining, as well.
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