The chief negotiator and national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (SAG-AFTRA), Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. EFE/EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

Hollywood actors’ chief negotiator: It’s employees versus mega-corporations

By Monica Rubalcava and Guillermo Azabal

Los Angeles, Jul 14 (EFE).- The chief negotiator for the Hollywood actors’ union in stalled talks with major film studios and streaming platforms characterized the standoff as a battle pitting “normal employees against megacorporations.”

“Most of the actors aren’t famous or rich. The majority are workers trying to pay their mortgage,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), said in an interview with Efe.

He made those remarks after the union’s national board voted unanimously Thursday to join the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in a strike against studios and streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon.

The historic job action, which came after the actors’ previous contract with the studios expired at midnight Wednesday, effectively shuts down film and television productions for the first time since 1960.

Speaking from the SAG-AFTRA’s headquarters in Los Angeles, Crabtree-Ireland said the decision to join Hollywood writers on the picket lines was one of last resort.

But he said the union was forced to take that step because the studios’ Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to offer a new contract that was “respectful” with its members.

“We don’t want a strike. We want a contract, but one that our members can sign,” the SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator said in an interview in which Spanish daily El Pais also participated.

Those remarks contrast sharply with the statement released by the AMPTP shortly after the actors’ strike was announced.

That organization, which represents conglomerates such as Disney and streaming platforms like Netflix, said it presented a highly attractive offer.

The deal includes “historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members,” it said.

The actors, however, decided that the proposal did not go far enough.

“Some of the proposals they made are acceptable, but not the ones that had to do with artificial intelligence,” Crabtree-Ireland said.

He also criticized the offer in the area of residual rights, which are additional payments to actors for the exhibition of an entertainment product in media other than the one for which it was originally created.

The studios, he said, merely tried to appear as if they were making a fair offer as a public relations move.

“If there had been a legitimate offer, we would’ve said yes,” Crabtree-Ireland said, noting that a main sticking point in the talks were the proposed pay increases for actors.

According to the SAG-AFTRA executive, the producers’ alliance presented an offer that, at most, would amount to a 5 percent pay increase.

That was very far from the 11 percent hike the actors are demanding.


Although a decision was made to go on strike, Crabtree-Ireland said the actors’ “doors are open” to resume negotiations at any moment.

“Today, tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday, any day. We’re ready to negotiate with the studios. They’ve said they don’t want to return to the table, but the only way to reach a deal is to talk,” he added.

The halt to US film and television productions could result in billions of dollars in cumulative losses for professionals across the industry.

Even before the actors joined the job action, the writers’ strike was already costing California’s economy $30 million a day, according to the WGA.

In his remarks to Efe, Crabtree-Ireland said that figure seems accurate to him.

Even so, he said the SAG-AFTRA, like the WGA, has an emergency fund to cover “the needs of those actors affected by the strike.”

On Friday morning, thousands of actors joined writers on picket lines outside the headquarters of the major studios in Los Angeles.

Depicting themselves as victims of deep-pocketed and greedy corporations, they say they have no choice but to engage in a battle that is affecting workers across all industries. EFE