In what amounts to a warning shot fired across the bow of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the Screen Actors Guild has issued a strongly worded press release insisting that the alliance still owes SAG a “residuals study promised by producers during 1998 negotiations.” Without this information — which SAG says is essential old business — the new business of formal negotiations cannot begin.
The upcoming negotiations on the theatrical and television contract between actors and producers is one of the most closely-watched stories in entertainment. In addition to actors, writers from the Writers Guild of America are also looking at contract talks next summer. At either end of the broad production spectrum, from alleged stockpiling to possible strikes, any ebb or flow in production will affect writers and actors everywhere, which in turn will impact on the Broadway, television and film communities.
Both groups met on Dec. 4, ostensibly to discuss the agenda for 2001 theatrical and television contracts talks. The result of the meeting was a clear message from SAG. The union’s written statement says a “vital element” is missing from the deliberations, specifically “information on theatrical and television residuals that was to have been provided as part of a residuals study.”
SAG’s release read, “The release of this residuals information by producers to the unions was negotiated as part of the 1998 Theatrical/Television contract. It was to be delivered to SAG and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) allowing time for the unions to analyze and discuss the information prior to the start of the member wages and working conditions committee meetings.” Those meetings began in October, ahead of any study being released, the union claims.
SAG associate national executive director (and lead negotiator) John McGuire and national executive director Greg Hessinger issued a joint statement saying, “The agreement by producers to release their residuals information was a significant piece of the 1998 negotiations. SAG and AFTRA are counting on that information to develop meaningful proposals that take into account the realities of the marketplace. We understand the residuals information is on its way to us, but it will take time for us to analyze the voluminous amount of material that’s coming. It will be impossible for us to begin formal negotiations with the AMPTP until we’ve taken the residuals information we bargained for in 1998 into account.” —By Murdoch McBride