SAG ready to resume talks with AMPTP

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Representatives of SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers are expected today to announce the resumption of their film and TV contract talks, most likely 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 the stalled 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 film and TV 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 tried to restart the stalled talks Feb. 3, but a legal action by SAG president Alan Rosenberg prompted the cancellation of the bargaining session. Rosenberg failed in a bid to obtain a temporary restraining order nixing the Jan. 26 ouster of national executive director Doug Allen. Former SAG general counsel David White has been tapped as Allen's interim replacement, and senior adviser John McGuire will replace Allen as the guild's chief negotiator for the AMPTP talks.

On Feb. 23, SAG is scheduled to begin negotiations with advertising-industry representatives for 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.

Also Monday, an "open letter" purported to be written by Allen circulated on one or more entertainment blogs, with the former 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. (partialdiff)
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