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Hollywood producers say SAG rejects contract offer By RYAN NAKASHIMA, AP Business Writer
42 minutes ago



LOS ANGELES - The Screen Actors Guild rejected the latest contract offer from Hollywood studios on Thursday but claimed it was willing to negotiate and presented a counterproposal.

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Producers, however, didn't appear as willing to consider any revisions to what they called their final offer.

"We made it clear our final is our final and that we're not interested in further counterproposals," said Jesse Hiestand, a spokesman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The two sides met privately for more than five hours before the AMPTP released a statement saying the guild was "unreasonably" seeking more than other unions. The session came as actors continue to work under a contract that expired last month.

The studios made their final offer last week, saying it provided $250 million in additional compensation over three years. The studios said they will not make any pay increases retroactive to July 1 if the deal is not ratified by Aug. 15.

Doug Allen, SAG's executive director and chief negotiator, called the $250 million estimate "highly inflated," claiming that proposed raises to actors' minimum wages would not benefit the higher-paid actors.

Allen said the guild made a "comprehensive counterproposal that adopted some of their proposals and offered alternatives on others."

SAG, the largest and most powerful actors union, represents 120,000 actors in movies, TV and other media.

It is seeking greater compensation for DVDs, something neither writers, directors nor a smaller actors union could secure in negotiations.

SAG also wants more say for actors when they are asked to endorse products in scripted shows.

SAG committee members are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the situation. SAG officials said they will contact producers Friday afternoon.

AMPTP said in the statement that the guild should consider the consequences of not accepting the latest offer.

"The last thing we need is a long, hot summer of labor strife that puts even more pressure on a badly struggling economy and deprives audiences of the entertainment they clearly desire in such difficult times," the AMPTP said.

On Tuesday, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a smaller union with 70,000 members, approved a three-year deal for a handful of prime-time TV shows, including "Rules of Engagement" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

SAG, however, represents the vast majority of actors who work in prime-time TV shows and movies. Any work stoppage by its members could throw the industry into turmoil.

The guild and studios have said they want to avoid a repeat of the 100-day strike by the Writers Guild of America that ended in February. That walkout stalled production on dozens of TV shows and is estimated to have cost the Los Angeles area economy more than $2 billion.

The studios' position that it had made its final offer left open the possibility that it could declare talks that have reached an impasse. If confirmed by the National Labor Relations Board, the declaration would let studios impose certain clauses of their offer on the guild.

However, most of the proposed contract changes favor the guild, making it unclear if an impasse would benefit the studios.

The studios said the possibility of a SAG strike sent some film producers rushing to finish shooting or to delay projects for fear they would be shut down before filming was complete.

But even after the contract expired, on-location movie shoots were on the rise in Los Angeles, according to permitting group FilmL.A. Inc.

There were 101 shooting days on location in Los Angeles between July 2 and July 8, up from 97 days a year ago, it said, making the studios' claim that labor uncertainty had caused a de facto strike in Hollywood somewhat dubious.

AFTRA said its three-year deal establishes higher fees for downloaded content and residual payments for ad-supported steams and clips.

It also sets a 90-day deadline after ratification to develop rules that would have actors consent to the use of clips in a commercial market similar to iTunes.

The AFTRA deal boosts minimum wages by 3.5 percent in the first year of the contract, 3 percent in the second and 3.5 percent in the third. The increase is slightly higher than the bumps received by directors and writers.

The deal with AFTRA largely followed the script laid out in contracts approved by directors and writers. SAG and AFTRA had agreed to the same starting proposals but took different tacks with the studios, the first time they had negotiated separately for the first time in 27 years.

In March, AFTRA accused SAG of trying to entice actors in the soap drama "The Bold and The Beautiful" to abandon the federation. AFTRA said then it was in the best interests of its members to deal with the studios on its own.

Pressure for a speedy resolution to negotiations came from A-list actors such as Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, who took out ads in trade publications in March that called for talks to start months ahead of the June 30 expiration of the contract.

SAG reached separate deals that cleared the way for more than 350 independent productions to raise financing and start work.

The agreements called for those companies to abide retroactively by the long-term contract eventually reached with the major studios.
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