SAG, WGA are getting chummier

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In another sign of strengthened relations between the guilds, SAG for the first time has created a committee to liaise with the WGA before and during writers' contract talks with the studios.

As usual, SAG also will send an observer to sit in at the WGA's talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, set to commence July 16.

But even as the cozier relationship between those guilds suggests heightened labor solidarity for the impending contract season, it's worth noting that AFTRA wasn't consulted on the new SAG advisory committee, according to well-placed sources. Last month, the performers union was excluded from a strategy meeting held between representatives of the WGA and SAG (HR 3/19).

The DGA, who like SAG will see its current contract expire in June 2008, also was absent from the March strategy meeting. But the DGA has tended to keep its distance from the other talent guilds, whereas sources suggest AFTRA was excluded from the session in line with SAG executive director Doug Allen's campaign to minimize AFTRA representation in SAG's upcoming negotiations with the AMPTP.

AFTRA long has been getting 50% representation on the film and TV negotiating committee for movie and primetime contract talks, though its members' earnings greatly lag SAG members' in those areas. Allen wants AFTRA to take lesser representation in the next set of talks, though a SAG spokeswoman Thursday emphasized that the so-called Phase One agreement guaranteeing AFTRA equal representation remains in effect.

Meanwhile, SAG's creating of a committee to liaison with the WGA on contract talks -- a move taken Sunday in a meeting of the SAG national board -- reinforces speculation that those guilds will closely align negotiating strategies.

The WGA's contract expires Oct. 31. But even if the contract goes open, many expect it could be months after that before the guild even considers going on strike.

There's growing consensus that the WGA might try to achieve greater leverage in its talks by allowing negotiations to drag on closer to the start of SAG's negotiations with the AMPTP, which could begin as early as January. The guilds share many concerns, including a desire that members be better compensated for the reuse of their work in Internet entertainment and other new-media projects.

SAG's new WGA advisory panel, actually a subcommittee of two other SAG committees, will be charged with sorting through industry research on topical issues, SAG deputy national exec director Pamm Fair said.

"Its basic mission will be to look at the research we have gathered, (but) their mission is not to form proposals -- and it's been specifically stated that it's not," Fair said.

She said about 20 members are expected to be named "very soon" to the panel, a subcommittee of new technologies and TV/theatrical committees. SAG president Alan Rosenberg chairs the TV/theatrical committee, and SAG first national vp Kent McCord chairs the new technologies committee.

"It's basically to work with the Writers Guild on the gathering of information on new media and other issues that are out there," Fair said. "We continue to work with the Writers Guild as we have been doing for 18 months. Alan Rosenberg has been working closely with (WGA West president) Patric Verrone since the day he was elected, and this expands the scope (of) that."

The subcommittee will begin meeting regularly "as soon as it's constituted," Fair said.
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