AFTRA opens talks after rejecting SAG bid for delay


A last-ditch effort by SAG to keep negotiations alive with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers was shuttered Wednesday by sister union AFTRA, which refused to postpone for a third time its scheduled talks with the producers.

SAG and the AMPTP broke off talks Tuesday after 18 days of negotiations that resulted in no deal.

Meanwhile, AFTRA and the AMPTP sat down Wednesday at 2 p.m. for the first time to negotiate its primetime TV contract, which includes primetime dramas and sitcoms. Talks concluded at 5 p.m. The two sides will resume talks today.

In a joint statement, AFTRA and the AMPTP said, "At the start of the talks, both parties expressed their desire to engage in open, productive discussions that will hopefully lead to a resolution that makes sense for both AFTRA and the industry."

This is the second time AFTRA and the AMPTP have sat down at the bargaining table. In March, the two groups negotiated a new Network TV Code for its daytime and other members after less than a month of negotiations. AFTRA members ratified the new three-year contract, which begins in November, by a 93% approval.

The network code covers various programs, including "American Idol," "Days of Our Lives" and "Oprah."

Because AFTRA and the AMPTP have already cut a deal in that area, many believe they will be able to swiftly negotiate the primetime TV contract. However, AFTRA president Roberta Reardon told members in an e-mail sent Wednesday that "we anticipate challenging negotiations" and "our success depends on the solidarity of all AFTRA members."

AFTRA's decision to not allow SAG back to the bargaining table was not unexpected. In March, after participating in joint wages and working conditions meetings with SAG, the performers union decided to end it's 27-year-old joint bargaining agreement with the guild and go it alone. The unions share 44,000 members.

Said AFTRA: "Today, SAG asked us to postpone our negotiations with the AMPTP so they could continue their talks, as well as to potentially collaborate on the primetime television negotiations. The AFTRA Primetime Negotiating Committee thoughtfully considered these requests but respectfully declined."

SAG president Alan Rosenberg said he was disappointed by AFTRA's decision.

"We made a suggestion we thought would be good for both members of the unions, which happen to be the same members, and they declined," Rosenberg said. (partialdiff)