As SAG and the studios’ bargaining arm, the AMPTP, enter a third day, one source familiar with the process told Vallywood! this morning that the negotiations are “very tough” going.
This assessment flies in the face of the contention by some in Membership First that the new majority would simply rubber stamp what AFTRA got and call it a day. That is not literally possible of course because AFTRA purposely left some issues unresolved to be settled by SAG.
But this report is consistent with my earlier analysis which said that the Producers were unlikely to roll over just because a new team had taken over for SAG.
Why does it make sense that the AMPTP would now play hard ball?
Oddly there was agreement among some in MF and the new majority that the new team would quickly be able to do a deal. The logic of the new majority was that the Producers would be willing to move off their “last, best and final” offer with a new team that was “serious” about negotiating. The MF crowd, more cynically, argued that the two sides had likely already cut a private deal to rubber stamp the WGA/AFTRA/DGA terms in order to avoid the hard ball tactics of Membership First.
In other words, both expected a quick deal. When SAG scheduled a national board meeting for this weekend, there were even suggestions by some that the “fix was in.”
But that to me was a bit too simple. First, the Producers made a big deal of saying their last, best and final offer was all that they had. If they pull back now, they can never again claim, credibly, that there is such a thing as a last, best and final offer.
Second, the AMPTP is in transition from the longtime leadership of its President, Nick Counter, to a new leader. To simply back down now would suggest some weakness in the new leadership of the Alliance. Are they likely to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
That’s why I think it made good sense that the SAG New Majority did not formally withdraw the Strike Authorization Vote. You never know when you are going to need additional leverage at the table, although I continue to believe the likelihood of a walkout is very low.
Why? At the end of the day, the Producers would likely wish this round of bargaining to end as soon as possible. Continuing uncertainty over the major contract in the industry undermines the ability to manage production in a tough economic period. It’s a headache that the head offices do not need.
On the SAG side, it is clear that a walkout would be very unwelcome except among a small group of hard liners who do not have a serious understanding of how labor unions really work. SAG needs to find a way to settle this round and begin finding ways to build internal unity in advance of the 2011 negotiations.