Another major hurdle to end the standoff between actors and producers has been cleared — if only just barely.

SAG's national board of directors voted 53%-47% on Sunday to approve its tentative new TV/ theatrical contract. The deal will be passed on to the membership at large in early May for a ratification vote.

However, since more than 25% of the board voted no, a guild- vetted "minority report" arguing against a "yes" vote will be appended to the ballot. A simple majority of "yes" votes is required for the contract to pass.

The thin split in the board was not unexpected and represents a party-line vote between the coalition of self-described moderate forces and the only slightly outmanned MembershipFirst faction. The ensuing battle for the hearts and minds (and votes) of the rank-and-file should prove equally as contentious.

"We are pleased that Screen Actors Guild members will soon be voting on a deal for television and motion pictures," interim national executive director David White said. "We're eager to get our members back to work and to focus now on the challenges ahead, particularly on initiating a comprehensive effort to thoughtfully plan for the future."

The board met during the weekend in a scheduled bicoastal videoconference, with the long-delayed tentative agreement for a new TV/theatrical contract thrust on the agenda at the last moment. After a two-month stalemate — and nearly 10 months of working under the terms of an expired contract — SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers discreetly hammered out a back-room compromise and Friday announced a tentative deal for a Codified Basic Agreement.

The proposed offer, which covers actors in motion pictures and television, includes a 3% wage increase and a 0.5% pension and health-plan contribution increase once ratified. In its second year, the contract triggers a 3.5% wage increase.

The board's motion, passed shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday, read: "It was moved and seconded that the National Board directs the Interim National Executive Director to send the tentative agreement between the Producers represented by the AMPTP and the Screen Actors Guild for successor agreements to the 2005 Producer-Screen Actors Guild Codified Basic Agreement and the 2005 Screen Actors Guild Television Agreement to the membership for ratification, with a recommendation from the Board to vote 'Yes.' "

The previous time the board met to weigh the AMPTP's latest offer — Feb. 21, the day before the Oscars — it rejected the terms in a near-unanimous voice of disgust. The biggest obstacle for SAG: the companies' demand that the new contract run three years from the day of its ratification, which would have placed the end date in 2012.

SAG, in an effort to link its next negotiating cycle with sister unions the DGA, WGA and AFTRA, desired a two-year, June 30, 2011, end date and balked. Recent behind-the-scenes discussions orchestrated by White and chief negotiator John McGuire with several industry decision-makers resulted in the companies accepting SAG's preferred date. That should lead to greater collective-bargaining power among talent unions in two years.

New-media parameters — including jurisdiction, rates and residuals — have been a controversial issue during recent contract negotiations and should prove Exhibit A in two years.

SAG president Alan Rosenberg, who has pushed for a strike-authorization vote and rallied dissent against parameters of the most recent AMPTP offer, struck a strained note after the board vote Sunday.

"I urge members to carefully review both the pros and cons in the referendum materials and exercise their right to vote," he said.

In addition to gains in covered background actors and guest-star premiums, the contract offer includes a new-media structure that parallels those achieved by the WGA, DGA and AFTRA:

• Jurisdiction on all derivative, made-for-new-media productions; automatic jurisdiction on all high-budget, original, made-for-new-media productions; plus jurisdiction on low-budget, original new-media productions that employ at least one covered performer;

• Residuals for exhibition of TV and theatrical motion pictures on consumer pay platforms (electronic sell-through) at a greater percentage than those paid for DVD distribution;

• Residuals for ad-supported streaming of feature films and television programs; and

• Residuals for derivative new-media programs.

The 110,000 or so paid-up members have a chance to vote the offer up or down. The ballots will include contract terms and a positive recommendation from the board.

Voters have three weeks to respond, with a simple majority determining the outcome. Because the votes are tallied in a rolling fashion, a final count is delivered to the board on the day of the deadline, which should occur by May 31. (partialdiff)
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