A plan put forth this week to SAG-AFTRA by George Clooney and other big stars to potentially kick start stalled negotiations with the studios is “worthy of review and consideration,” says the union’s chief negotiator.

“We’re with you, we’re behind you,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told Deadline today of his takeaway on the ideas and sentiment from the Oscar winner and others. “We just want to do whatever we can do to help, and I think someone wanting to help is not someone wanting to undermine.”

On Tuesday, as Deadline exclusively reported, Clooney, Emma Stone, Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry Scarlett Johansson and other A-listers met with guild brass to discuss the state of the strike and the lack of talks with the studios. In the Zoom gathering, as Clooney himself confirmed to Deadline exclusively today, the A-listers stressed to union president Fran Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland that “a lot of the top earners want to be part of the solution.”

SAG-AFTRA has been out on strike for 98 days so far, with no new talks with the studios and the streamers scheduled at present. However, Crabtree-Ireland said today that a new contract is “definitely possible.” He added: So long as everyone gets back to the table, and does so with the mindset of let’s find this path to a fair deal.”

In the desire for that fair deal, the A-listers had some specifics to put on the table for the guild to consider.

“We’ve offered to remove the cap on dues, which would bring over $50 million to the union annually,’ two-time Oscar winner Clooney explained of the stars’ suggestions to move the situation back to the bargaining table. “Well over $150 million over the next three years. We think it’s fair for us to pay more into the union. We also are suggesting a bottom-up residual structure — meaning the top of the call sheet would be the last to collect residuals, not the first. These negotiations will be ongoing, but we wanted to show that we’re all in this together and find ways to help close the gap on actors getting paid.”

On the picket lines at Warner Bros on Thursday, Crabtree-Ireland took a big picture appraisal of the A-lister’s offer.

“The idea of lifting our dues caps and providing more membership dues could help fund all kinds of programs that can help members, like programs to help uninsured members who need health insurance, premium help or things like that,” the SAG-AFRTRA leader noted. “But that’s not a way to put money into the benefit plans. It’s not even legal to put money into the benefit plans except from employer contributions.”

“So, I really see that as a gesture of goodwill and support that’s meant to help lift up the membership more than it is to affect the contract negotiations,” he declared.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland with Chelsea Rendon & Kevin E. West at WB Oct, 19, 2023Rosy Cordero/Deadline

While dues has not been a major topic in the SAG-AFTRA deliberations this year, the A-listers idea of flipping the residual payout had the possibility to carry real heft, symbolically if nothing else. In real terms, by putting themselves at the bottom of the list and putting working actors at the top, the Clooney-led proposal could boost the vast majority of the 160,000 guild members, many of whom don’t even earn enough to qualify for health care benefits

With Netflix’s Ted Sarandos repeatedly accusing SAG-AFTRA of wanting to throw a “subscriber levy” into the deal, the guild’s revenue sharing proposal have been a top sticking point in reaching a new three-year contract. From the very beginning of talks earlier this year, the actors guild has been seeking new financial compensation for the cast of successful streaming shows and movies – which has always been a non-starter with the AMPTP.

In the most recent round of talks that started on October 2, the guild cut the proposal from 2% of steaming revenues to 1%. Last week, SAG-AFTRA came back with a revamped version that aimed to streamline the amount to around 57¢ per subscriber on the streaming services.

It did not go over well – in fact, on October 11, the studios and streamers left scheduled talks early and later phoned Crabtree-Ireland to say they weren’t coming back and deliberations were “suspended.”  The AMPTP claimed the proposal would cost them $800 million a year and was an “untenable economic burden.” SAG-AFTRA dispute the estimation, calling it inflated by hundreds of millions.

“They told us under no circumstances would we agree to something that’s attached to revenue so our committee went back, soul searched, worked really hard for a couple of days and we came yesterday came with a new proposal that doesn’t attach to revenue, it attaches to subscriber levels just like they asked,” union chief negotiator Crabtree-Ireland told Deadline on October 12 on the Netflix picket line.  “Their response to that was, instead of being ‘oh, wow, this is something we can talk about,’ their response was, ‘we are walking away from negotiations.”

While talks have been suspended by the studios and streamers for over a week now, yesterday Netflix in its third-quarter earnings report also termed the negotiations as “ongoing” – which may signal a restart is in the cards sooner than later.

 Post Views: 7,162