The federal mediator had arranged the first formal face-to-face in months between the two parties. But, given the acrimonious history of their stalled negotiations, it’s not surprising that there was no progress. The question, just as it was before the economic climate collapsed, is what happens next? SAG seemed to answer that by issuing this statement about the breakdown of talks:

“Our leadership was optimistic that federal mediation would help to move our negotiations forward, but despite the Guild’s extraordinary efforts to reach agreement, the mediation was adjourned shortly before 1:00 AM today.

“Management continues to insist on terms we cannot responsibly accept on behalf of our members. As previously authorized by the National Board of Directors, we will now launch a full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization referendum. We will further inform our members about the core, critical issues unique to actors that remain in dispute.

“We have already made difficult decisions and sacrifices in an attempt to reach agreement. Now it’s time for SAG members to stand united and empower the national negotiating committee to bargain with the strength of a possible work stoppage behind them.

“We remain committed to avoiding a strike but now more than ever we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers. The WGA has already learned that the new media terms they agreed to with the AMPTP are not being honored. We cannot allow our employers to undermine the futures of our members and their families.

“No timeline has been set for the mailing or return of the strike authorization ballots.”

SAG’s National Board left it up to the guild’s national negotiating committee to determine if and when mediation became fruitless. Once that point was reached, then the referendum seeking a strike authorization goes out to members. I’m told this process takes anywhere from 30 to 45 days, including three weeks for the ballots to come back to SAG. If the vote is yes to empower a strike by at least 75% of eligible SAG members who return ballots, this still does not mean a strike will be called. Because then it’s up to the National Board to decide if and when to call for the work stoppage. So Hollywood is a step closer to another strike — but it still may not happen. Now everything is up to SAG members. Nevertheless, the timing could threaten the Golden Globes and Academy Awards again.

The AMPTP got out first word of the talks breakdown with this statement:

“The AMPTP accepted the federal mediator’s invitation to meet with SAG in hopes of concluding our seventh major agreement of 2008. The Producers met for two days with SAG at the request of federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez. The parties were unable to reach an agreement and the mediator has adjourned the mediation process.”

Long Stalled SAG-AMPTP Talks Resume
SAG National Board Requests Mediator Before Strike Authorization Vote