Strike watch continues

With their contract expiring 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, the Writers Guild of America and the Producers Alliance are still locked in negotiations, with a strict news blackout enforced. At the same time, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have come up with a game plan.

And the mood is decidedly upbeat for all involved.

The Los Angeles Times reported that labor and industry sources believe a deal will be made sometime this week, with the talks most assuredly moving beyond the contract deadline. At the same time, however, the Times reported from sources close to both factions that the talks remain volatile, with a few productions companies, including Walt Disney Co., sticking to a hard line over the roughly $100 million being negotiated in residuals.

In a press conference Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan warned that “time is running out,” but maintained an optimistic outlook on the negotiations, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“I think there’s a will to make a deal. And I think its just as easy to settle something now than a month form now,” Riordan said. “Clearly neither side is going to be totally satisfied if they reach the right compromise, but I think that they will reach one.”

He reiterated his plea to the writers and producers to show compromise in the face of a devastating loss of revenue for Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have finally approved a film-TV contract proposal, primarily consisting of significant salary hikes, from both the Western and Eastern section of the SAG/AFTRA joint national board. The tentative start date for the negotiations with the AMPTP is May 10. Their contract expires June 30.

This unanimous approval indicates a much-needed show of solidarity after the two unions have been reportedly at odds over the last few months. A crack came earlier this year when AFTRA’s board turned down a SAG request to cut the number of AFTRA negotiating team reps due to the smaller contribution of AFTRA performers. There also have been reports of dissention within SAG, with many members wanting president William Daniels out of the position. But it has been made clear that both unions have insisted they do not want to strike, especially after last year’s six-month advertisers strike.

According to Variety, the reps are not disclosing the exact details of the proposal, but have said that the package is “one of the most streamlined and focused in the history of these negotiations,” concentrating on boosting the minimum salaries of the “middle class” actor. This would definitely help. Currently, about 70% of SAG 100,000 members make less than $7,500 a year, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

It is widely believed that the actors will not strike if the writers can reach a satisfying agreement with the producers.