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SAG sets start of talks amid member, studio pressure

Times Staff Writers

The Screen Actors Guild announced Tuesday night that it would begin negotiations with the major studios April 15.

Although its contract expires June 30, the union representing 120,000 actors has faced pressure from its A-list members and the studios to begin immediate negotiations since writers ended their 100-day walkout in February.

“We look forward to productive negotiations,” SAG Executive Director Doug Allen said in a statement late Tuesday. He declined to comment further.

The move comes days after SAG’s board voted on a package of proposals for talks that are expected to be highly contentious. The union’s leaders have vowed to seek better terms for new-media pay than the directors and writers secured and to press for a larger cut of home video revenue -- an issue the studios view as a nonstarter.

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Complicating matters for SAG is a nasty feud with its sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. AFTRA’s board voted over the weekend to suspend its longtime joint bargaining agreement with SAG and negotiate a prime-time television contract directly with the studios, alleging a continuing campaign to sideline the smaller union.

AFTRA leaders have said they would be ready to begin immediate talks, raising fears among SAG leaders that the sister union could undermine their own contract goals by negotiating first.

SAG’s announcement suggests that studios might use the prospect of a separate deal with AFTRA as leverage in case talks with the main actors union collapse.

Studios pursued a similar strategy in their battle with the writers union, crafting a deal in short order with directors when talks with scribes broke down.

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AFTRA officials declined to comment.

Before sitting down with actors, studios will hash out a contract next week with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents technical crews that work on film and TV sets.

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

claudia.eller@latimes.com


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