SAG and the AMPTP met throughout Thursday and will continue meeting Friday, I’m told. There were no formal announcements by either side, thus indicating another news blackout. The federal mediator had arranged the first formal face-to-face in months between the two parties. But, given the history of their stalled negotiations, it’s not surprising that they don’t expect any real progress. The question, just as it was before the economic climate collapsed, is what has to happen to force a resolution for a new contract. The AMPTP clearly thought it could further marginalize the big actors union with Wednesday’s announcement that Big Media had reached a tentative contract agreement with IATSE. But I know there’s been real consternation within SAG over Wednesday’s other news: that Big Media have failed to comply with the WGA contract negotiated to end the 100-day writers strike by not making New Media payments to the writers. And that the WGA has filed for arbitration against the AMPTP. Seeing the writers get stiffed was a giant wake-up call for SAG and undermined the AMPTP’s own argument that the actors could have been collecting New Media residuals all this time if only they’d signed the Hollywood CEOs’ supposed “last best” offer many months ago.
Meanwhile, I learned Thursday that at least two major agency heads want to help the WGA secure those unpaid New Media residuals from the Hollywood CEOs. Tenpercenters played a pivotal early role in getting the writers and moguls to talk to each other during the strike. And let’s not forget that the studios and networks still owe SAG nearly $60 million in contractually mandated force majeure payments left over from the writers strike and, astonishingly, expect the big actors union to forgive that debt entirely once (or should I say, if ever) the AMPTP and SAG reach a new pact. I just don’t know if Hollywood truly understands that its employer-labor relations increasingly look as if they’re on the brink of breaking down after more than a year of bullying by the AMPTP and battling back by the Guilds. And when agreements already reached aren’t even respected — well, then, the whole system is falling apart. This is beyond shameful.