Hollywood is once again facing a real life cliffhanger now that the Screen Actors Guild has turned down the producers’ so-called last, best and final offer. Remember a few weeks ago, the hard line negotiator in SAG was tossed out by moderates who felt they could better work a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Well, what the moderates got was a tough lesson in how the game of negotiations is played by the producers.
In a statement on its website, the Screen Actors Guild admitted it went into last week’s talks thinking a new contract was almost a done deal. The new negotiators gave the producers what they had been asking for: “In an effort to put the town back to work, our negotiator agreed to modify the Guild’s bargaining position to bring the Guild in line with the deals made by our sister unions.”
So what did the producers’ reps do, they went for blood. The SAG negotiators got blindsided by a new proposal: “The AMPTPs last-minute, surprise demand for a new term of agreement extending to 2012 is regressive and damaging…” The producers want a three year deal, which would mean SAG’s contract would not expire at the same time as the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the writers and directors’ guilds, thereby weakening SAG’s bargaining power.
Over on its website, the AMPTP heaped a ton of praise on its last, best and final offer: “We have kept our offer on the table – and even enhanced it – despite the historically unprecedented economic crisis that has clobbered our nation and our industry.” The AMPTP never mentioned the millions the Hollywood studios have been making at the Box Office for months.
Last Saturday, SAG’s board of directors voted overwhelmingly to reject that last, best final offer. The producers have warned the offer could be withdrawn or modified after two months. So, it appears we are back to an impasse with both sides digging in.