SAG-AFTRA Strike Imminent as Talks Conclude With No Deal

A SAG-AFTRA strike appears to be imminent, as talks with the studios have concluded without a deal or an extension. The union’s contract officially expired at midnight.

In a statement, the union said that the negotiating committee had voted unanimously to recommend a strike.

The union’s national board is expected to meet Thursday morning to call a strike, which would immediately halt scripted film and TV production by the companies represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, said in a statement that the AMPTP’s responses to its key issues were “insulting and disrespectful.”

“SAG-AFTRA negotiated in good faith and was eager to reach a deal that sufficiently addressed performer needs, but the AMPTP’s responses to the union’s most important proposals have been insulting and disrespectful of our massive contributions to this industry,” Drescher said. “The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics and on others completely stonewalled us. Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal.”

Production has already been dramatically curtailed due to the Writers Guild of America strike, which began on May 2.

SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 performers, has not gone on strike against the film and TV companies since 1980. The last time the actors and writers were on strike simultaneously was 1960.

The AMPTP said in a statement that it was disappointed in the outcome of the talks.

“We are deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to walk away from negotiations,” the employer group said. “This is the Union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more. Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.”

The union is seeking a streaming residual formula that would account for the success of shows. The studios have been unwilling to disclose their own viewership data, leading SAG-AFTRA to propose using metrics from Parrot Analytics, a third-party data firm.

It is also seeking regulations on the use of artificial intelligence, which would require that actors be paid for any AI-generated use of their likeness, as well as limits on self-taped auditions and a host of other issues.

In a message to its members early Thursday, the union highlighted both streaming and AI as core issues in the negotiations.

“As you know, over the past decade, your compensation has been severely eroded by the rise of the streaming ecosystem,” the union wrote. “Furthermore, artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to creative professions, and all actors and performers deserve contract language that protects them from having their identity and talent exploited without consent and pay. Despite our team’s dedication to advocating on your behalf, the AMPTP has refused to acknowledge that enormous shifts in the industry and economy have had a detrimental impact on those who perform labor for the studios.”

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the SAG-AFTRA national executive director, also underscored those points, saying that the studios “have implemented massive unilateral changes in our industry’s business model, while at the same time insisting on keeping our contracts frozen in amber.”

“That’s not how you treat a valued, respected partner and essential contributor,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “Their refusal to meaningfully engage with our key proposals and the fundamental disrespect shown to our members is what has brought us to this point. The studios and streamers have underestimated our members’ resolve, as they are about to fully discover.”

The union began talks on June 7. Drescher, who is also the chair of the negotiating committee, had said that talks had been “extremely productive” in a video message to members on June 24. The two sides agreed on June 30 to extend the contract for another 12 days, in a sign that they saw some hope of reaching a deal.

But the talks have become far more acrimonious in recent days. On Monday, top studio executives agreed to propose bringing in federal mediators to help resolve the dispute. While SAG-AFTRA agreed to mediation, it also blasted the last-minute move as a “cynical ploy” to seek a second extension.

The union also said that it remains interested in getting a deal, but suggested that the studios do not “have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement.”

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service dispatched a mediator on Wednesday who was on hand for the final day of talks.

The membership of the union has been urging the leadership to take a hard line. In a letter two weeks ago, signed by more than 2,000 actors, the leadership was urged not to accept anything less than a “transformative” deal.

“This is not a moment to meet in the middle, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the eyes of history are on all of us,” the letter stated.

Many members have already been joining writers on the picket lines outside the major studios. On Tuesday, actors were on hand at several WGA pickets to get training in the logistics of strike operations from WGA strike captains.

In early June, SAG-AFTRA members voted 98% in support of a strike authorization, giving leadership the power to call an industrywide strike if no agreement could be reached.  

Read More About:

Source: Read Full Article