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SAG Board Takes Up Rejection of Gaming Contract

A special SAG board meeting will be held next Wednesday (June 29, 2005) to further address the national executive committees rejection of the contract hammered out with the gaming industry, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. NEC turned down the offer despite the support on negotiators.

"When the NEC rejected the tentative contract earlier this week, we said we'd explore all of our remaining options," national executive director Greg Hessinger said. "Since then, we have received feedback from enough of our membership to conclude that this matter must be brought before the full board for its consideration."

The gaming industry has extended the deadline to ratify the agreement until June 30.

At the same time, Electronic Arts, Activision and the other gaming companies are forging ahead with AFTRA, which accepted the new contract.

The NECs rejection of the contract seems to be due a great deal to political infighting with opponents of SAG president Melissa Gilbert voting against the proposal and the pro-Gilbert camp vote for it.

Members of Gilbert's Restore Respect sect are claiming that no votes are just a political move to gain ground in anticipation for the fall election. The election will decide the top officer positions and control of the union.

"MembershipFirst (anti-Gilbert camp) is supposedly dedicated to the rank-and-file member and here they take this action in games, which is in direct contradiction to the desires of the working members and negotiating committee," secretary-treasurer James Cromwell said. "Why would one do that except to pose as the party that refuses to capitulate to the industry in any reasonable way to reach an accommodation?"

Cromwell fears that the infighting will extend into the current TV animation talks and upcoming basic cable deal, leading to two unneeded strikes.

The union intended to take a strike-authorization vote at Saturday's animation agreement caucus meetings in L.A., New York and Chicago, however they will instead formally poll the affected members in a referendum, leaving the Saturday meeting to update members on the negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

"There seems to be a concerted effort for reasons I can only guess at to take this union out on three distinct strikes against the industry," Cromwell said. "I believe the intent is to position themselves in the eyes of the membership as the faction that will go to the wall for the rights of the working-class member. But what in actual fact happens is that it puts those workers in jeopardy because they go against the collective bargaining process of the union if it suits their purposes."

"We were the victims of friendly fire by our own union," Michael Bell, one of the chief videogame negotiators, said. "There wasn't any militancy at all, there was nothing obdurate. We got a clear request by our caucuses, a clear mandate to request residuals. Nobody wanted to go back to the table for a small hike in session fees."

Bell and his allies have written their own interim contract, which includes residuals but caps the payments after the first 800,000 units, something the negotiating team was asked to seek during bargaining but didn't. Unlike the tentative agreement, the interim one wouldnt be compulsory on employers. However, Bell hopes to have the NEC considered it in late July.

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