However, SAG negotiators balked at the studios’ demand that the union’s contract expire in three years, rather than two years. Studio executives insist that a three-year contract is necessary to ensure stability. A three-year deal, however, would mean SAG’s contract would expire a year later than the labor contracts of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the writers and directors guilds, the Times said. SAG leaders believe that would weaken their bargaining clout by preventing them from joining forces with the other unions in the next round of contract negotiations.
In a statement, SAG accused the studios of inserting a “last-minute and surprise demand” that was not brought up in earlier negotiations, including during federal mediation talks in November.
“By attempting to extend our contract expiration one year beyond the other entertainment unions, the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) intends to de-leverage our bargaining position from this point forward. … The AMPTP has clearly stated their need and desire for financial certainty and industry peace. This new proposal does the exact opposite, and will only result in constant negotiating cycles and continued labor unrest.”
SAG’s board stopped short of asking union members to approve a strike. The next logical step for SAG representatives is to initiate back-channel contacts with some senior studio executives to see if a showdown can be averted. SAG now is preparing to begin negotiations Monday with producers of commercials, which are covered under a separate contract.