The first day of talks between the reconvened negotiating teams from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the advertising interests represented by the Joint Policy Committee (JPC) produced little result on Oct. 19 and, as of mid-afternoon on Oct. 20, it was clear that talks would continue over the weekend.
The actors and the advertisers are seeking common ground on a new commercial contract for ads broadcast on networks, cable and the Internet. The actors have been on strike over the disputed commercial contract since May 1. The commercial strike is now the longest strike in entertainment history.
Sources indicate that a "global proposal" was presented to the actors' unions on Oct. 19 and that talks continued well into the evening on the first day of negotiations, lasting until approximately 8 PM. Both parties had walked away from the table on Sept. 27 after failing to reach an agreement.
There were poignant moments on Oct. 19, with the action ranging from the professional to the personal in nature.
Both parties arrived at the Millennium Hotel on W. 44 St. in the heart of the Theatre District with cautious optimism and a certain level of expectation: Following the unions' call for a national boycott of Proctor and Gamble (P&G) products, numerous reports indicated movement towards compromise on such things as Internet jurisdiction. Once the talks began, however, sources close to the negotiations expressed surprise that the JPC reportedly arrived at the table without delivering a specific proposal. By mid-afternoon on Oct. 19, there was some progress being made, with at least two meetings conducted by the large negotiating committees from SAG and AFTRA, in addition to certain sidebars. Even so, discussion outside the negotiating context was said to have included issues of strategy.
There was also an aspect of personal tragedy that had a sobering effect on the negotiations' restart: Although he was on hand at the outset of the Oct. 19 sessions and appeared in good spirits, Richard Dreyfuss later learned that his mother had passed away in Los Angeles and the actor returned to California immediately.
On Oct. 20, the second day of the negotiations, the unions were absorbed with the cable television aspects contained in the JPC's global proposal submitted on Oct. 19 and many expected their work to continue over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the actors' unions manned demonstration lines at both entrances to the Millennium Hotel (on 44 and 45 Streets), and continued the call for a national boycott of P&G's mainstay products, Crest, Tide and Ivory Soap.
Because the contract negotiations are being conducted by federal mediators, both parties have agreed to a gag order, precluding either side from commenting for the record.
-- By Murdoch McBride