NEW YORK -- SAG national executive director Doug Allen has touched off another firestorm in the ongoing battle between his union and AFTRA with a 12-page report that details significant differences between guild and AFTRA contracts for basic-cable programs.
Using the pacts from three AFTRA shows -- FX's Dirt, Lifetime's Army Wives and IFC's The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman -- Allen indicated that pay disparities range from 13%-53% for day players and series regulars alike.
"Lowering the bar through competition between unions is rarely a good idea," Allen wrote in his report, which came in the form of a letter in the current issue of Screen Actor, the guild's quarterly magazine. "Doing so now is particularly ill-considered and sends a divisive message to producers as we prepare for landmark negotiations in 2008."
SAG and AFTRA bargain jointly for their two most lucrative contracts: the one for network TV and film and the one for commercials.
For the past few years, national president Alan Rosenberg and members of SAG's Hollywood Division have charged that AFTRA was undercutting guild contracts in the realm of basic cable. It is unclear whether the contractual differences cited by Allen pertain to all of AFTRA's 20-30 basic cable deals. It is, however, the first time that SAG has spelled out the differences so starkly and so publicly.
Because the report came from the guild's highest-ranking staff official and not from an elected member, the guild finds itself in another intramural battle: between its Hollywood Division, whose members have spearheaded the hard-line stand against AFTRA, and the elected leaders of the New York and regional branches, who favor a merger between the unions. More than 40,000 performers have memberships in both labor groups.
Paul Christie, former president of SAG-New York and the guild's former 2nd national vp, is particularly furious about the Allen report, and said in an interview that any progress he and Rosenberg have made over the past two years to bridge the East-West divide has all but eroded within a matter of weeks.
"Doug Allen seems to be hellbent on a path that we all think is basically suicidal," he said, "and is putting us in an adversarial war with AFTRA."
Less than two months ago, Christie said of East-West relations: "It's been better than it's been in a long time."
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