Actors' unions and the studios keep talking in drama-free contract negotiations
[UPDATE: Negotiators for Hollywood's actors' unions and the major studios worked into the night Saturday in an eleventh hour effort to reach an early agreement on a new three-year contract. It was unclear whether a deal would be reached late Saturday night or whether negotiators would need more time to bridge their differences over pay and health and pension contributions.]
After nearly six weeks of negotiations, Hollywood's actors' unions and representatives of the major studios were unable to reach agreement on a new contract as of late Friday night, but agreed to continue talking over the weekend in an effort to strike a deal.
The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists began negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on Sept. 27, and had planned to conclude those talks by Friday.
Despite progress in negotiations that were notably free of the rancor that derailed past talks, the parties were still seeking to bridge key differences Friday. Those centered on proposed wage hikes -- the actors' unions are seeking more than the 2% annual raises recently won by the Teamsters -- and increases in employer contributions to the unions' health and pension plans.
Another sticking point, people familiar with the negotiations said, involved efforts by the unions to secure improved pay and work conditions for actors who perform on a motion capture stage, a concern fueled by the huge success of James Cameron's blockbuster "Avatar."
"We are continuing to work tonight and will be back here working tomorrow,'' Screen Actors Guild spokeswoman Pam Greenwalt said, declining to elaborate, citing a media blackout.
Although the actors' contracts don't expire until June of 2011, both sides have ample motivation to secure an early agreement to avoid a repeat of what happened two years ago, when the Screen Actors Guild and the studios were locked in a protracted dispute that destabilized the industry. SAG members worked for about a year without a contract.
SAG also faces pressure to conclude an agreement before the Directors Guild of America launches its own negotiations this month. The DGA is traditionally the first out of the gate on new contracts, setting the pattern for others to follow.
-- Richard Verrier