Actors union huddles over Hollywood labor stalemate

Sat Jul 12, 2008 2:56am EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A day after their counterproposal to major studios' "final" contract offer was rebuffed, Screen Actors Guild leaders huddled on Friday to consider their next move in a Hollywood labor stalemate almost certain to drag into next week.

In a brief statement released in the evening, SAG said its negotiating team "met behind closed doors throughout the day today discussing bargaining strategies. The negotiations team remains committed to continue to bargain for a fair contract."

But no further talks were scheduled, and SAG made no mention of how it might proceed to reopen negotiations now that management has taken the position that bargaining is over. It concluded by saying it would provide another update on Monday.

The contract at issue covers the work of 120,000 SAG members in prime-time TV and movies, an industry still reeling from a 100-day screenwriters' strike that ended in February. A strike by the actors union was seen as unlikely, for now.

The old SAG contract expired hours after studios' bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, presented the union their "final" offer as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition on June 30.

SAG nonetheless delivered a counteroffer during a four-hour meeting on Thursday that ended with the studios refusing to budge and insisting that SAG submit the industry's latest proposal to union members for a vote.

SAG leaders have so far been unwilling to do so, saying the studio offer -- mirroring terms endorsed on Tuesday by the smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in a separate TV-only contract -- falls short in several areas.

SAG has, for example, sought higher residual payments for actors from DVD sales and to extend contract coverage to virtually all made-for-Internet programming.   Continued...

<p>A general view shows the Screen Actors Guild National Headquarters in Los Angeles July 9, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>