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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Hollywood actors clinch contract deal
Brian Walton, chief negotiator for the Screen Actors Guild, left, shakes hands with Nick Counter, president and chief negotiator for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers
Negotiators shake on the tentative agreement
Hollywood actors have reached a contract agreement with film studios, which is expected to avert a crippling strike, after almost two months of talks.

Actors unions had been demanding a better pay deal for their 135,000 members - especially the "middle-income actor" - whose existing contracts expired on Saturday night.


I have to say that I am slaphappy, with the emphasis on the happy

William Daniels
SAG president
The new agreement is expected to be confirmed by a vote of Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) members over the next few weeks.

"I have to say that I am slaphappy, with the emphasis on the happy," SAG president William Daniels said after three days of marathon talks.

Final details were not revealed, but terms were expected to include increases to performers' minimum salary scale and their residual payments - the compensation paid for secondary markets like repeats, cable TV and foreign distribution.

Bill Daniels, president of the Screen Actors Guild, during a press conference
SAG president Bill Daniels during the announcement
The deal will help "the middle-income actor, the actor that you all recognise but sometimes don't know their names", according to AFTRA president Shelby Scott.

"I think they will be pleased when they learn the details of this pact."

Scott said the proposal will be recommended to the joint boards of the unions next week.

If they approve, union members will take part in a postal vote, with a majority required before the agreement can finally be sealed.

Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, warned that there was a chance the actors could reject the proposal.

But Daniels stood behind him, shaking his head, smiled and mouthed the word "No".

'Solutions'

Counter praised union negotiators, who began talks on 15 May.

"They embarked on a problem-solving mission and instead of finding problems they found solutions and they helped us see the road to a deal," Counter said.

A news blackout had been in operation since the talks began.

According to trade newspaper Daily Variety, the two sides were near a similar deal to that which was signed by scriptwriters in May.

Demands

Variety said there were indications that the actors' new contract might include a 3.5% hike in minimum pay, up from the current rate of $617 (436) per day and $2,142 (1,516) per week, and an increase for guest-starring roles on television.

The unions also wanted Fox TV to be ranked as a fully fledged network like ABC, CBS and NBC, which means it will pay more money to writers when repeats are shown on Fox.

One of the last hurdles was believed to involve a proposal to give actors more pay from basic cable TV residuals by reducing pension and health plan contributions.

Film insiders have said that even if there is no strike, it will still take the industry several months to return to normal.

Links to more Film stories are at the foot of the page.


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