Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

Strike vote for Hollywood actors

SAG rally in June 2008
Actors have continued to work under a contract that expired in June

Hollywood actors are to vote on whether to go on strike after mediation in their dispute with film studios failed.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which has 120,000 members, and studios could not reach agreement on a new contract at their first meeting in four months.

It objects to studio plans to make one-off rather than residual payments to actors in shows made for the internet.

It says it will launch "a full-scale education campaign" supporting a strike vote although no date has been set.

If 75% of those who voted were in favour of industrial action, it would give union leaders the authorisation to call a strike.

We remain committed to avoiding a strike but now, more than ever, we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers
SAG

Two mammoth sessions of negotiation between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) in Los Angeles on Thursday and Friday were eventually adjourned at 0100 local time on Saturday morning.

The union said in a statement: "We remain committed to avoiding a strike but now, more than ever, we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers."

SAG chief negotiator Doug Allen said studio plans to use one-off payments on made-for-internet productions had wider implications.

"They're asking us to bless a system we believe would be the beginning of the end of residuals, and that's a very scary thought for working actors," Mr Allen said.

Many actors relied on residuals - payments made to actors every time a production is repeated - for more than half their income, he added.

Expired contract

But the AMPTP said it had already made similar deals with other Hollywood unions.

SAG is bizarrely asking its members to bail out the failed negotiating strategy with a strike vote at a time of historic economic crisis
AMPTP statement

In July, another actors' union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, approved a new prime-time TV contract with studios.

But a similar deal - which would boost the minimum wages of members by 3.5% in the first year of the contract, 3% in the second and 3.5% in the third - was rejected by SAG shortly afterwards.

In a statement issued at the weekend, the AMPTP said: "Now, SAG is bizarrely asking its members to bail out the failed negotiating strategy with a strike vote at a time of historic economic crisis."

SAG members have continued to work under the terms of a contract that expired on 30 June.

All parties will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the 14-week writers' strike which brought Hollywood to a standstill earlier this year and cost the Californian economy an estimated $3bn (2bn).

The action, by the Writers' Guild of America (WGA), led to a halt in filming as well as the cancellation of the Golden Globes ceremony.

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