Acting union agrees to federal mediation as strike nears

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With a total Hollywood shutdown set to happen by midnight tonight, a last-ditch effort has been made to reach a deal with actors. 

Just yesterday we covered a story looking at SAG-AFTRA, the guild of 160,000 screen actors in the US and the preparations they were making for a strike that would shut down the screen industry in the US, not to mention wreaking significant havoc on much of the UK industry too. As the negotiating deadline of midnight (pacific time, US) draws closer, the clock is ticking down and it is beginning to look like no agreement will be reached.

Although the negotiations are happening behind closed doors, Deadline reported yesterday that future use of artificial intelligence is a particularly contentious issue, with no real headway being made in negotiations on that front. This echoes the experience of the currently striking Writers Guild of America who also struggled to even get the American Motion Picture and Television Producers’ negotiating team  to even discuss potential future use of the technology.

Considering this seems to be the most significant obstacle to any kind of deal, the looming strike is looking like it might transcend the film industry and becoming a battleground that could define the conflict for many other industries as artificial intelligence continues to become an increasingly dominant force in our lives.

Still, a strike isn’t a certainty although things do look like they’re heading that way. After already lengthening the talks by a fortnight, SAG-AFTRA has said that it won’t agree to another extension of the negotiating period although it has agreed to federal mediation, (also from Deadline). This government agency steps in to ‘build better relationships through joint problem-solving and constructive responses to inevitable conflict’ (according to their website) but if six weeks of talks haven’t got both sides close to a deal by this point, its doubtful that a final 24 hours will change anybody’s mind.

In fact, it seems like the request to bring in external mediators may have actually set things back, with SAG-AFTRA condemning the AMPTP for leaking the news as an attempt to curry favour with the public. Here’s part of the press release put out by SAG-AFTRA:

“Furthermore, we condemn the tactic outlined in today’s inaccurate Variety piece naming the CEOs of several entertainment conglomerates as the force behind the request for mediation; information that was leaked to the press by the CEOs and their ‘anonymous sources’ before our negotiators were even told of the request for mediation. The AMPTP has abused our trust and damaged the respect we have for them in this process. We will not be manipulated by this cynical ploy to engineer an extension when the companies have had more than enough time to make a fair deal.”

The guild claims that they are still looking to strike a deal in these final hours but adds that “we are not confident that the employers have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement.” It looks like a strike is happening folks and whilst it might be necessary for the industry as we know it to survive, it will of course have a hugely negative impact on lots of people’s lives until things are resolved. We’ll bring you more on this story as we hear it.

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