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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 23:26 GMT 00:26 UK
Equity pay talks begin
Julie Walters
Oscar-nominated Julie Walters is backing the protest
Talks aimed at avoiding a strike by UK actors over pay and conditions got under way on Friday.

More than 200 household names have pledged their support to the campaign which threatens to bring the UK film industry to a standstill.

The acting union Equity is pushing to renegotiate a contract with the Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) over rights for bonus payments.

We are not saying 'the American system or nothing'

Equity spokesman Martin Brown

Heavyweight actors including Julie Walters, Alan Rickman, Kathy Burke and Pete Postlethwaite are behind the drive for a better deal.

The union wants the UK industry to be brought into line with its American counterpart in terms of payments for repeats and video and DVD sales.

At the moment British actors are paid a flat advance fee which shuts them out of bonuses for successful projects or merchandising deals.

Anomaly

In America actors are paid for each rebroadcast and video or DVD sales.

Equity has used the blockbuster Mission Impossible to highlight the anomaly between the treatment of actors from both countries.

The union claims $1.8m (1.2m) has been handed to US actors following the success of the movie, but the British stars missed out on the windfall.

If the talks fail, Equity has warned its members could refuse to sign new contracts.

Martin Brown, spokesman for Equity, said: "We understand that the British industry is not Hollywood and we know that there are difficulties in financing films. We are happy to take all that on board.

"We are not saying 'the American system or nothing'. What we are asking for is an acceptance of the principle of continuing payments linked to the use."

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29 May 01 | Film
Equity threatens strike action
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