Saying they don’t think the TV and film industries can take another long strike like the one that hit Hollywood last year, two major performers’ unions said Wednesday they’ll propose a bare-bones contract package well before negotiations are to begin.
The proposal to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will be sent today, one union official said, with the next step a request that both sides meet next week in Los Angeles.
That would be two months before the scheduled May 15 start of contract talks between the Alliance and the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The current pacts expire June 30.
If both sides agree on the early, seven-point proposal, “that’s it, we’ve got a contract for three years,” said John C. Hall, executive director of AFTRA.
The Alliance, representing the major studios, film and TV producers and the three major television networks, had no comment on the unions’ plans for an early contract proposal, a spokesman said.
The unions’ move comes with memories still fresh from last summer’s 22-week Writers’ Guild strike that halted nearly all film and prime-time TV production and delayed the start of the networks’ fall season until late October. The networks and studios have stepped up production schedules to get as much work finished before June 30 as they can.
“Everybody seems to be reeling from the possibility of another strike,” Hall said. But “we’re trying to avoid any work stoppage at all. . . . It’s not in our interest to stop the work.”
Were there to be protracted negotiations, he added, “things could get out of hand. To avoid that, let’s get down to the meat of the situation and try to do something statesmanlike for a change.”
AFTRA’s jurisdiction covers taped and live broadcast performances, while SAG covers film performances.
What the unions call their “limited package of proposals” covers seven points--including domestic and foreign TV residual payments that were a principal stumbling block in the writers’ negotiations last year--leaving intact other provisions of the existing contracts.
“The whole idea is not to open up the entire contract point by point, which would mean two or three months of negotiation,” said Mark Locher, a SAG spokesman. “The idea is to have a very simple, very limited package on both sides, make a trade, sign a deal and avoid the whole traditional negotiation process.”
The unions said that they are prepared to bow to what they say is management’s bid for more flexibility from the performers, specifically a five-out-of-seven-day work week, instead of the Monday-to-Friday work week that now is the rule.
They also said they’d give producers revisions that the latter seek on residual fees paid performers for one-hour network series when the shows go into syndication.
In return, the unions are requesting a 4%-a-year minimum wage increase for each year of the new contract; a boost in residual payments for shows that air on cable TV after their showings on so-called “free TV,” and a single residual payment--35% of actors’ minimum compensation--for foreign sales of hourlong American network TV series.
The unions’ West Coast board of directors unanimously approved the proposal Monday night in Los Angeles, and the East Coast directors were expected to follow suit here Wednesday night.
If the alliance is willing to meet next week, Hall said, “then we go in and say, ‘OK, do you accept it?’ ”
But if the reply is no, he said, “then we go back to the drawing boards and come up with a whole Encylopaedia Britannica of proposals, and then we sit down on May 15 and start bargaining.”
The two unions, which by one official’s estimate represent a total of 100,000 members, last struck film and prime-time network entertainment producers in 1980. The walkout lasted 12 weeks and, like the much longer writers’ strike last summer, also delayed the start of the networks’ new television season that year.
In addition to the film and prime-time TV proposals their executives soon will make, AFTRA members also are awaiting the outcome of negotiations on 37 separate contracts covering news, sports and entertainment shows that aren’t aired in prime time.
Those contracts would succeed ones that expired on Nov. 16. In addition to entertainers, those affected by these negotiations include network correspondents and anchormen Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings.