SAG-AFTRA set to approve US actors strike as last-ditch talks fail

(CC: Izayah Ramos – unsplash)

Officials at US actors’ union SAG-AFTRA will meet Thursday morning to formally approve a strike, after last-ditch efforts to resolve the contract dispute failed.

The move is set to mark the first Hollywood actors’ strike for more than 40 years, and the first time that both actors and writers have been on strike in unison for over 60 years, with no resolution to the ongoing WGA dispute in sight either.

The actors’ union agreed to last-minute federal mediation with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on Tuesday, but the union said that it did not believe the AMPTP had any real intention of reaching a new agreement – and these discussions have now ended without a new deal in place.

The SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee voted unanimously to recommend a strike for its 160,000 members and picketing is expected to begin Friday morning.

SAG-AFTRA released a statement last night that said: “After more than four weeks of bargaining, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) – the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery – remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that are essential to SAG-AFTRA members.”

The union blamed the studios’ “intransigence and delay tactics” in leading to the strike action, with SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher stating: “SAG-AFTRA negotiated in good faith and was eager to reach a deal that sufficiently addressed performer needs, but the AMPTP’s responses to the union’s most important proposals have been insulting and disrespectful of our massive contributions to this industry.

“The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics and on others completely stonewalled us. Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal. We have no choice but to move forward in unity, and on behalf of our membership, with a strike recommendation to our National Board.”

The union will hold a press conference today at 12 noon PT at SAG-AFTRA Plaza in Los Angeles, following the conclusion of the National Board vote.

AMPTP response

The AMPTP followed up with a statement which read: “We are deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to walk away from negotiations.

“This is the union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more.

“Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.”

The WGA has been on strike for more than two months already, and concerns for both actors and writers include receiving adequate compensation from residuals payments when their work goes to streaming services, as well as protections amid the increasing use of artificial intelligence, which can be used to write scripts and even create digital doppelgangers of actors and their voices.

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