“Outrageous rollbacks” reignite SAG-AFTRA strike threat

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Just when we thought we all could breathe again after the WGA and the studios and networks came to terms on a new contract, The Wrap, Variety and Hollywood Reporter all report that talks have broken down over a new three-year contract between SAG-AFTRA and the AMTMP. SAG-AFTRA’s current master contract for film and primetime TV expires June 30. The union has about 160,000 members.

A request to authorize a strike went out on Sunday, claiming “outrageous rollbacks” by the networks and studios. In a letter posted on the union’s website, union leaders Gabrielle Carteris and David White wrote that the AMPTP were not negotiating in good faith. “The AMPTP has responded with outrageous rollbacks that cut to the core of our basic terms and conditions.”

“We have presented reasonable proposals to address the critical concerns facing our members and that are integral to making a living in this industry,” read the message. “The AMPTP has responded with outrageous rollbacks that cut to the core of our basic terms and conditions. Despite our efforts, the AMPTP has failed to move on our most critical issues. The status quo is simply unacceptable and our members, standing together, will not give in to management’s onerous demands nor back down on our critical proposals.”

The missive contained no specifics as to which areas had created the disputes with the companies. SAG-AFTRA has never revealed its specific proposals to its members and it agreed with the AMPTP to conduct negotiations under a news blackout.

As with the WGA, the union has revealed on its web site that the growth of streaming giants Netflix and Amazon is a key concern. “This is a time of extraordinary entertainment and media industry profits,” it said in its “frequently asked questions” section of the site. “Global online distributors like Netflix, and now Amazon, are expanding the market for scripted film and television across the globe. Management’s demands will mean more for less – more hours, more work, more unreimbursed travel and less opportunity for fair compensation.”

“There is unprecedented consumer demand for content and record industry profits. Actors are among the key drivers of the industry’s monumental success and should receive appropriate compensation, benefits, and standing on par with their overall contribution. Only a fair contract agreement will ensure this.”

According to Variety, Sunday’s message to members was the first disclosure by the union about the negotiations since they began. It also did not indicate the timetable for when members will be asked to vote for the strike authorization.

“After a comprehensive update from the negotiating committee, the National Board of Directors today unanimously voted to authorize sending out a strike authorization referendum to SAG-AFTRA members, unless a satisfactory agreement is reached by June 30, 2017,” Carteris and White said.

SAG-AFTRA’s move is similar of the tension that arose in March and April between the AMPTP and the Writers Guild of America. The WGA West and WGA East received overwhelming support from its members for a strike authorization vote as contract negotiations appeared to stall in April. As the industry girded for a work stoppage, the sides reached a deal with barely an hour to go until the May 1 contract expiration deadline.

The WGA’s negotiations centered on adjustment to compensation formulas driven by the changes in the series TV market, primarily the shift to shorter episode orders (less than the 22 episodes per season norm of broadcast TV) for cable and streaming programs. SAG-AFTRA is believed to be dealing with some similar issues in its talks. SAG-AFTRA’s previous round of film and TV contract talks went four days past the expiration date in 2014.

With production either about to begin in July on several shows produced in Chicago such as Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Empire, this could once again affect the city’s economy which boasted almost half a billion dollars in revenue in 2016.

SAG-AFTRA has been on strike against 11 top videogame producers — including Activision, Electronic Arts, Disney, and Warner Bros. video game units — since Oct. 21, 2016.

Follow Colin Costello on Twitter @colincostello10.

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