The arrival of representatives from national IATSE at the ongoing negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Joint Policy Committee (JPC), which represents commercial producers, sent JPC scurrying back to the bargaining table. Prior to this last-minute development, both sides had been expected to walk away from the two-week-old talks, with the producers rejecting SAG's recent compromise proposal.
Spokespeople for both the west and east coast branches of IATSE appeared before commercial producers and actors at midday and announced that their members would not cross the SAG picket line in the future. This move prompted John McGuinn, lead negotiator for the commercial producers, to adjourn the meeting while he consulted with his superiors, and he agreed to reconvene with federal mediators at 1:30 PM.
This support from IATSE was made even though that union does not have a strike clause governing its members' work in connection with the commercial strike.
Earlier on Sept. 27, Playbill On-Line had learned that SAG's most recent proposal, which comprised a 7.39 percent increase over the three-year term of the new contract, had been nixed by producers late on Sept. 26. In a session scheduled to begin at 11 AM today, producers' representatives were expected to outline their objections and explain why the SAG offer did not work for them. Sources speculated that SAG would walk away from the table at that point.
The Joint Policy Committee (JPC) representing commercial producers has been crunching numbers since the proposal was submitted by the union late Sunday or early Monday.
The SAG offer was higher than that proposed by the JPC. Producers had offered a five percent increase, which union sources said was inadequate and did not reflect the good work and consistent performance of its work force. For the last contract between these groups, an eight percent increase was negotiated over the three-year term of that pact.
Ahead of any official announcement from SAG and the producers, there were some immediate predictions and speculations that were made:
1. SAG promised to call for wide boycotting of Proctor and Gamble should the talks break off; some serious boycott or strike activity is expected.
2. SAG celebrity activists promised to embarrass corporate American interests (that produce commercials) if necessary, by bringing fame to bear in an appeal to the American public.
3. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) would likely play some role in future events, but this has not been defined. The government agency will certainly be reporting directly to the White House on any break in talks. The FMCS chief reports directly to the White House routinely and, this close to a presidential election, political intervention—perhaps by democratic candidate and Vice President Al Gore—cannot be ruled out.
What impact the IATSE stance will have on the above is unclear. Stay tuned to Playbill On-Line for updates throughout the day.
-- By Murdoch McBride
and Kenneth Jones and Robert Simonson