With Hollywood thoroughly unnerved by the prospect of a summer strike, the Screen Actors Guild and the majors begin negotiations today on the feature-primetime contract -- but without AFTRA after a last-ditch peacemaking effort by SAG fell flat, Variety reports.


The talks were set to launch at 10 a.m. PT at the Encino headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. And they won't include the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists even though SAG asked its sister union late Sunday to rejoin it at the bargaining table, two weeks after AFTRA angrily split off from SAG.


SAG told AFTRA it would have until Wednesday to respond, but AFTRA didn't need nearly that long. AFTRA national exec director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth fired off a frosty letter to SAG counterpart Doug Allen that dismissed the idea out of hand, asserting it was impossible to gather negotiating committee members on short notice and stressing that the problems that caused the divorce hadn't been resolved.


Her letter said SAG had failed to include language that would preclude SAG from "raiding" AFTRA shows that have decertified, asserting that a motion to do so was voted down Sunday. AFTRA leaders broke off the 27-year bargaining partnership with SAG on March 29, asserting that the guild's alleged attempt to help decertify soap "The Bold and the Beautiful" was the "last straw" in a long line of SAG transgressions that included besmirching the reputations of AFTRA's leaders via its campaign about AFTRA allegedly shilling for producers by signing cable deals at rates lower than SAG's.


The tone of Hegpeth's letter makes it clear that AFTRA will not agree to patch things up, due to the profound level of mistrust between leaders of the two performers unions. "The Strategy Cabinet members determined that there does not appear to be any evidence that the underlying problems, which forced the members of the national board to take the action they did on March 29, have been or will soon be resolved," she said.


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