After Initial Fed Mediation, Union Source Says Commercial Producers Are "Willing to Listen

News   After Initial Fed Mediation, Union Source Says Commercial Producers Are "Willing to Listen After the first day of federal mediation, the actors' unions and the producers of commercials may have made initial progress in their negotiations for a new commercial contract.

After the first day of federal mediation, the actors' unions and the producers of commercials may have made initial progress in their negotiations for a new commercial contract.

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have been on strike against the producers of commercials since May 1.

Following the close of the day's session, Sept. 13, one source close to the process told Playbill On-Line that there was an early indication that the negotiating team for the producers may be "willing to listen" to the union.

Though unconfirmed, the report is meaningful based on what else is known about the talks with federal mediators, namely:

1. The actors' unions, SAG and AFTRA and the commercial producers represented by the JPC have yet to meet face-to-face in the prolonged and sometimes stalled mediation process. 2. Negotiating teams from both sides have actually been in different rooms at the government office, speaking to each other through mediators in a form of "shuttle diplomacy."

3. In practice, federal mediators move both sides in a conflict toward common ground, working under a guarantee of confidentiality.

According to Ken Kawalski, eastern regional head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), this can be a painstaking process. "Even if we see where the common ground is, we don't divulge it to the parties involved," Kowalski explained.

The FMCS is a government agency separate from the Labor and Commerce Departments. Its head is nominated by the President and appointed by Congress. Once named, the head of the FMCS answers directly to the White House.

A second day of federal mediation is planned for the SAG/AFTRA Commercial Contract negotiations on Sept. 14. Following that, the small core negotiating teams will break for the weekend. Following scheduled travel this weekend, the full negotiating teams are expected to return to the table on Mon., Sept. 18. With talks tentatively set for 9:30 AM Mon., at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Broadway, a union support rally was being discussed as of Sept. 13.

-- By Murdoch McBride