Sag seeks strike authourisation vote

MUMBAI: Talks between the Screen Actors Guild (Sag) and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) in the US have failed to reach any resolution.Sag has, therefore, asked for a strike authorisation vote.

In a statement Sag says, “Our leadership was optimistic that federal mediation would help to move our negotiations forward, but despite the Guild’s extraordinary efforts to reach agreement, the mediation was adjourned.

" Management continues to insist on terms we cannot responsibly accept on behalf of our members. As previously authorized by the National Board of Directors, we will now launch a full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization referendum. We will further inform our members about the core, critical issues unique to actors that remain in dispute.

" We have already made difficult decisions and sacrifices in an attempt to reach agreement. Now it’s time for Sag members to stand united and empower the national negotiating committee to bargain with the strength of a possible work stoppage behind them.

"We remain committed to avoiding a strike but now more than ever we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers. The WGA has already learned that the new media terms they agreed to with the AMPTP are not being honored. We cannot allow our employers to undermine the futures of our members and their families.”

No timeline has been set for the mailing or return of the strike authorisation ballots. On its part, AMPTP expressed disappointement that the federal mediation efforts between it and Sag failed.

The mediation, the AMPTP says, failed for one fundamental reason which is that Sag continued unrealistically to insist on a substantially better deal than all of the other major Hollywood Guilds and Unions have negotiated so far in 2008. "In the end, it was clear that Sag was not serious about using the mediation process to make a deal. Instead, Sag appears to have manipulated the mediation process in an attempt to achieve precisely the result it has wanted all along: A strike by Sag members," notes the AMPTP statement.

The AMPTP adds that Sag has not justified why it deserves to be treated differently than the industry’s other guilds and unions – particularly at a time of extraordinary economic distress for both the country and the entertainment business. Sag, it states, refuses to deviate from its unrealistic position, even continuing to cling to its proposal to change the DVD residual formula.

The AMPTP goes on to note that it has already negotiated six major labor agreements in 2008 alone. "We are prepared to conclude an agreement with Sag, but we simply do not see any justification for Sag receiving more than we have offered - a deal that is every bit as good as the ones the industry’s other Guilds and Unions have negotiated in far better economic times."

The AMPTP maintains that its offer to the Sag members is fair and strong. "At least until now, we have kept the offer on the table despite the precipitous economic decline of the last several months. Whether we will be able to continue to do so in the face of the economic downturn remains to be seen. We are now prepared to continue explaining the merits of our offer in every way that we possibly can. The more SAG members understand about the fairness and strength of our offer, especially during a time of historic economic distress, the less likely they will be to authorize a strike.

" We will also continue to place the burden squarely on Sag to explain why it deserves better deals than the other entertainment Guilds received earlier this year – particularly in light of the fact that the earlier deals were negotiated during better economic times, and SAG is attempting to reach a deal now during a period of tremendous economic upheaval."

The AMPTP warns Sag that a strike would be economically devastating to the entire industry, including its own members, as well as to the overall economy. "The unreal timing of the call by Sag for a strike in the midst of one of the worst economic crisis the global system has ever faced, demonstrates once and for all that SAG is completely out of touch with reality. A SAG strike in this financial meltdown would be like pouring gasoline on a fire, and it is astonishing that Sag would call for a strike vote when the rest of the country is reeling from an unprecedented financial crisis."

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