AMPTP 'welcomes' early talks

Actors' ad provides fuel to get negotiations started

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers said Thursday that it is open to early contract talks with SAG officials after an open-letter ad placed in publications by A-list actors urged both sides to "just talk."

"We welcome early discussions with the actors unions, and we know from our DGA negotiations that a contract can be reached early and without a strike," the AMPTP said.

The SAG contract expires June 30. Guild president Alan Rosenberg has indicated that he is leaning toward a late spring date for starting talks with the AMPTP, which is led by president and chief negotiator Nick Counter.

The ad, placed by George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in publications including The Hollywood Reporter, is part of the strategy that SAG members are using to pressure Rosenberg into engaging in early talks.

The actors said in the ad that there is too much at stake to wait. "It's our hope that both parties can at least agree on that," the letter concluded.

SAG national executive director Doug Allen issued a statement Wednesday in reference to the pressure from well-known guild members, saying its member outreach has included talks with high-profile TV and film actors.

"We will bargain with management at a time that will most benefit our members," Allen said.

SAG and AFTRA already have held several committee meetings on wage and working conditions issues. So should the A-listers succeed in getting SAG officials to launch negotiations by sometime next month, labor-side negotiators should be primed and ready to go.

News Corp. COO Peter Chernin and Disney chief Robert Iger were the most hands-on in hashing out deal terms with the writers and directors, and many believe those executives or other top media bosses also will engage with the actors unions before their formal negotiations with the AMPTP.