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N.Y. group blasts SAG leaders on talks

The faction calls for a mediator if progress is not made by Aug. 25.

August 18, 2008|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

New York members of the Screen Actors Guild national board issued a sharp rebuke of their own leaders Sunday, demanding that they seek help from a federal mediator if contract talks don't progress by Aug. 25.

The unusual criticism was the latest sign of infighting between the Hollywood and New York factions on SAG's 71-member national board.

The New York group, which holds 14 seats on the board, blasted SAG leaders for "failing to bargain realistically" with the studios.

"Nothing is happening, and we're no closer to a deal today than we were six weeks ago," the New York members said in a statement, contradicting assertions by SAG Executive Director Doug Allen and President Alan Rosenberg that contract discussions with the studios were ongoing.

"They intend to simply sit still until the upcoming [board] elections are concluded rather than make the 'unpopular' moves necessary to make a deal," the statement said. "The willful inaction of our negotiators is costing our members money, every day."

Actors in Hollywood's biggest union have been working without a contract since the previous one expired June 30.

In a final offer, studios proposed a contract modeled on those accepted by writers and directors, but SAG leaders said it failed to meet the needs of actors, especially in regard to pay for work distributed over the Internet and other new media.

Allen, however, said guild negotiators have had "substantive discussions" with numerous representatives of the studios over the last several weeks and that neither side saw the need to call in a mediator.

He noted that SAG's board unanimously supported two chief bargaining goals: securing union contracts and residuals for all original Web shows, which have been major sticking points with the studios.

Rosenberg dismissed the statement as a political ploy that would "embolden management with a false belief that SAG actors are split on the issues."

Conflict between the union's New York and Hollywood camps escalated this year, when SAG mounted an unsuccessful campaign to torpedo a contract negotiated by the smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

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