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AFTRA, SAG to Hold Joint Meetings

Strikewatch_blogSAG and AFTRA, the normally feuding sister unions, told members yesterday they would conduct joint meetings with members to talk about the Booz Allen study on commercials and new media.

As you may recall, the two unions used to negotiate major contracts together, but the two split up in March before talks were to begin on new contracts with TV and film producers. AFTRA negotiated its own prime-time TV deal, while SAG and producers have been stuck in a three-month stalemate on a new TV and film contract.

The nasty split between the two have had people wondering whether they would return to negotiate jointly the commercials contracts, which expire March 31. The contracts collectively are worth close to $1 billion.

Variety reports today that the informational sessions, which will begin in New York Oct. 7, are a "strong signal" that the two unions will return to their joint negotiating agreement, known as Phase One. However, in August, AFTRA leaders Kim Roberts Hedgpeth and Roberta Reardon told their counterparts at SAG, Doug Allen and Alan Rosenberg, that they would not negotiate together unless the guild agreed to mediation supervised by the AFL-CIO--sort of like couples therapy for unions.

SAG has yet to formally agree to mediation. However, with pro-merger forces assuming a slim majority on SAG's national board, perhaps AFTRA is optimistic that it will be able to work with the guild again. Still, there's no way to know for sure. Hedgpeth and Reardon, the federation's national executive director and president, respectively, have made no public comments about their relations with the guild since the results of the SAG elections were announced Sept. 18.

The current deal on commercials has been extended twice. The first time, in 2006, it was extended for two years so that the unions and the Joint Policy Committee, the bargaining arm for advertisers and advertising agencies, could hire an outside consultant to study the effect of new media on the commercial business. The pact was recently extended a second time because SAG still has not settled with the AMPTP on a new TV and film deal. Also, probably, because the two unions have been engaged in such a nasty fight.

All sides seem to want the negotiations to happen jointly and they probably will. But given the way things have gone with SAG and AFTRA lately, no one can count on anything.

--Andrew Salomon

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