Joint bargaining still on SAG/AFTRA table

Committee delays recommendation for further study

SAG and AFTRA may yet again sing from the same negotiating hymnal, but there was nothing like full harmony even among members of an AFTRA committee discussing the issue Sunday.

The committee was expected to recommend a return to joint collective bargaining. Instead, it appointed a smaller committee to study the matter in more detail.

Still, despite some fractious debate over the issue among AFTRA committee members, signs appear relatively promising for an eventual rapprochement between the sister actors unions. Most of the AFTRA committee members appeared to be leaning toward recommending a return to joint bargaining.

In 2008, AFTRA reversed its long-standing alignment with SAG and disassociated its contract bargaining from the sister guild's film and TV negotiations with Hollywood studios. But a SAG regime change since then has helped smooth relationships between the unions.

SAG president Ken Howard went so far as to endorse an eventual merger of the organizations in his election campaign last year, and Roberta Reardon, AFTRA's chief elected officer, appears pro-merger and -- more immediately -- pro-joint bargaining.

Joint contract talks could begin as early as this year if the unions' boards go along with such a recommendation. But that's only provided the AFTRA working committee decides to recommend joint bargaining. The working committee is expected to reach a decision on the matter by the time the AFTRA national board next meets on Feb. 27.

SAG's main film and TV contract and AFTRA's main primetime contract -- the pact normally folded into SAG's contract talks -- both run until June 2011.
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