Actors strike: Dj vu all over again

Chris Forrester 22-02-2009

It seems like only yesterday that the Writers Guild of America strike was settled after months of forcing film studios to close and having badly affected Hollywoods TV output. The WGA strike was settled just over a year ago, on Feb 12 2008, after 3 especially bitter months. Now, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is walking a similar path.

The SAG gave warning on Saturday evening, just hours ahead of this years Academy Awards bash, that they had rejected Hollywoods take it or leave it offer. 73% of the SAGs national board supported the rejection, however full strike action needs a 75% mandate from the whole membership. SAG has more than 120,000 film and TV members.

The studios, via their Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP), had offered a deal that they wanted to hold for 3 years to March 2012. The SAG are only looking for a deal to run 3 years after their last deal expired, good only until June 2011. SAG has been working for the past 8 months or so without any sort of deal in place.

The basic argument concerns residuals due on sales of new media distribution, such as iTunes as well as DVD and Blu-Ray sales, none of which are currently written into standard contracts.

AMPTPs offer does slightly improve on their former best and final terms. This latest one is their last, best and final offer. "We entered this round of negotiations sending an unmistakably clear message that we were ready to make a deal," said a SAG statement. In an effort to put the town back to work, our negotiator agreed to modify the Guild's bargaining position to bring the Guild in line with the deals made by our sister unions. The AMPTPs last-minute, surprise demand for a new term of agreement extending to 2012 is regressive and damaging and clearly signals the employers' unwillingness to agree to the deal they established with other entertainment unions."

The problem now is that theres a huge degree of uncertainty as to where this leaves SAG members as regards any industrial action. SAGs New York membership board has opposed going on strike because of the economic situation. Robert Redford and Russell Crowe are reported to have opposed a strike.