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As talks between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers commenced Wednesday, negotiators were joined by several high-profile actors, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Jane Lynch (Glee), Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, Legends of Tomorrow), Gary Cole (Veep, Family Guy) and Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs) have all shown up at AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks, presumably to lend moral support to the union negotiating committee.
It’s not known whether those actors will be joined by others. Nor is it known whether they will enter the bargaining room, although it seems likely. The presence of recognizable names in the room exerts some pressure on studio executives, which is why the DGA and WGA negotiating committees generally include a number of top directors, showrunners and screenwriters.
The union declined to comment, and the AMPTP did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The bargaining is taking place under a press blackout.
Chairing the union’s negotiating committee is SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, herself a boldface name (Beverly Hills, 90210, Code Black). National executive director David White is SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator. AMPTP president Carol Lombardini is lead negotiator for the studios and production companies.
Although Wednesday marked the start of formal talks, subcommittees from both sides have been in discussions for the last several weeks, focused particularly on three issues that The Hollywood Reporter previously identified as key: holds and exclusivity for short-season series, funding of the union pension plan and per diem payments and other travel-related matters.
A knowledgeable source told THR that those discussions have been somewhat bumpy, but it was impossible to determine whether that meant mere hiccups within the normal scope of negotiating ups and downs or whether serious difficulties lie ahead. So far, observers have expected much smoother sailing than in the recent WGA talks, which were marked by the threat of a strike. The current SAG-AFTRA contracts expire June 30.
On two other big-ticket items — basic wage increases and residuals enhancements — the actors’ deal is likely to mirror the results achieved by the DGA several months ago and the WGA earlier this month. Those unions obtained nominal 3 percent annual wage bumps (“nominal” because there are one or more 0.5 percent diversions to fund benefit plans) and enhancements in residuals for high-budget SVOD programs and for ad-supported VOD reruns.
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