SAG, AFTRA start talks with studios

Negotiations are scheduled for the next seven weeks

How labor talks will be different this time
Unions, producers get negotiation party started

Actors' negotiations with the studios began Monday with hope for smooth sailing in the weeks ahead. For the first time in five years, SAG and AFTRA are again jointly negotiating with the AMPTP.

A media blackout is in effect.

The two unions caucused in the morning, then met with the AMPTP starting at 2 p.m. In the session, which ran for about an hour, the unions presented their proposals to management. On Tuesday, it's the AMPTP's turn.

The parties are expected to meet essentially every weekday until a deal is reached. Negotiations are scheduled for the next seven weeks. The union agreements expire June 30.

The joint negotiations are proceeding under the framework of the two-decade-old agreement between SAG and AFTRA known as Phase One. That agreement gives the unions equal weight on the joint negotiating committee.

The previous negotiating cycle was different -- it featured separate negotiations, acrimony and a yearlong SAG stalemate that stretched the bargaining process into mid-2009 and slowed feature film production. The ascendance of new, self-styled moderate leadership at SAG finally broke that logjam. The moderate faction, led by Hollywood's Unite for Strength group, cemented its gains in guild elections that concluded last week.

Next up this year is the DGA, which will conduct formal sessions with the AMPTP starting Nov. 15. Their negotiations are likely to result in a deal before Thanksgiving. The DGA contract also expires June 30.

No WGA negotiations have been set. That guild's contract expires May 1. In practical terms, negotiations are unlikely to begin until January at the earliest.

SAG, AFTRA and the AMPTP declined to comment.