SAG says contract talks may extend into July

June 12, 2008 6:10:18 PM PDT
The Screen Actors Guild said Thursday that talks with Hollywood studios could extend past the end of the current contract on June 30, but was willing to keep actors working without a deal. SAG executive director Doug Allen said in an e-mail to The Associated Press the union was hoping for an agreement soon but was prepared to keep negotiating into July.

"We've worked beyond the end of a contract before," Allen said a day after guild leadership briefed members on the status of talks.

"We would much rather get an agreement done now," he said. "But if management is stubborn and intransigent, that may lead us to the point where we're negotiating beyond the end of the agreement."

The studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said in a statement that its bargaining team was "frustrated and discouraged" at the guild's attitude.

"With 18 days left in the month, SAG's Hollywood leadership is already saying that it's unlikely a deal will be made by June 30," the alliance said. "We hope that this statement does not signal the intention of SAG's Hollywood leaders to bring our industry to a halt."

The alliance said the lack of a deal had already put Hollywood into a "de facto strike," because feature films were not being approved and pilot production was being disrupted over fears of labor strife.

The alliance said it was still far apart from SAG on fundamental issues, including compensation for traditional media and for Internet content.

The contract talks over prime-time TV shows and all major studio movies entered their 28th day Thursday after starting April 15.

Both sides took a three-week break last month to allow the smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to begin talks. AFTRA reached a tentative agreement on May 28 involving on a handful of TV shows.

The leadership of SAG, with 120,000 members, is opposing the AFTRA deal ahead of a ratification vote by AFTRA's 70,000 members. Results of the vote are expected on July 7.

The unions share 44,000 dual members.

SAG president Alan Rosenberg chided AFTRA for reaching its deal too quickly and said it fell short in several areas, including consent by actors for the use of their images and voices in online clips.

"They achieved a substandard deal six weeks before they had to, when we could have improved things at the table together," Rosenberg said in the e-mail to the AP.

The two unions bitterly feuded over jurisdiction amid accusations of member poaching before AFTRA decided in March to negotiate with the producers on its own for the first time in 27 years.

The move broke the united front of actors and embittered members, said Danny Woodburn, a 43-year-old actor who has appeared in "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

Woodburn said actors at a packed, 380-seat venue Wednesday night vented about AFTRA's decision to cut a quick deal.

"What stood out most for me was frustration at AFTRA," he said.

Both actors unions and the producers alliance have said they want to avoid a repeat of the 100-day writers strike that ended in February.

That walkout shut down production on dozens of TV shows and cost California's economy $2.1 billion, according to a study by the Milken Institute.