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AFTRA, SAG Move Closer to Phase One for Ad Deal

Strikewatch_blogThe bizarre year of entertainment labor strife took another strange turn Saturday when AFTRA's national board approved a measure that would allow the union to return to joint bargaining with SAG for the new commercials contracts, which expire at the end of March.

The official news release is here.

SAG still has to have its board approve the measure, a process that could take two weeks or so. However, it is expected the guild will approve the measure as well. A compromise between the unions was reached in meetings with Peter diCicco, an official for the AFL-CIO. The terms of the compromise will remain confidential for now, AFTRA national president Roberta Reardon told Strike Watch in an interview.

"I do have to commend President Rosenberg and Doug Allen [SAG's national executive director] for working hard on this," Reardon said.

The two unions have feuded for more than a year, largely because of a fight for jurisdiction in basic cable.

The feud culminated in March, when the AFTRA board voted to suspend the joint bargaining arrangement, known as Phase One, because of allegations that the guild was trying to raid the federation's jurisdiction in soap operas.

As a result, AFTRA negotiated its own prime-time broadcast TV deal, which SAG then spent more than $100,000 trying to defeat. The two unions share about 44,000 members, and the guild tried to convince its cardholders to vote down the plan, but it passed with 62 percent of the vote.

Currently, SAG is stuck in a stalemate in its own negotiations with producers. Their TV/film contract expired June 30 and the guild has refused to accept the producers final offer. Among other reasons, SAG objects to the producers' terms for new media.

SAG's negotiating committee last week voted to ask the national board to send out a strike authorization referendum to its members. For the guild to get authorization, 75 percent of voters have to approve, which may be a difficult hurdle to clear in a shaky economy.

Reardon told Strike Watch it would be difficult for SAG to negotiate a commercials deal while simultaneously waging a strike but "you still have to prepare."

The commercials contracts have been extended twice--for two years in 2006, and for six more months in late summer. The first extension was to allow for a comprehensive study on the commercials business in the age of new media. The two unions will begin an educational process with members to explain the study. Then there will be the wages and working conditions process, where union leaders hear from cardholders what they want to be included in the new contract.

--Andrew Salomon

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