Actors union expected to seek contract extension

Thu Jun 26, 2008 10:12pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With Hollywood actors' major film and TV labor contract set to expire in days, union negotiators are expected to seek an extension of the pact with studios, giving them more time to reach a deal and avoid a strike.

The existing three-year contract covering 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild runs through June 30 and officially expires July 1, a date widely seen as likely to pass without a settlement or a work stoppage, plunging the world's entertainment capital into labor limbo.

The union's national executive committee granted its negotiators permission to seek a formal contract extension with the studios' bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a SAG spokeswoman said on Thursday.

But the two sides must agree mutually on terms of an extension, a pact that is unlikely to be reached until closer to the deadline.

Without an extension, the old contract remains in effect for working actors. But the studios could present a "last, best and final offer," which SAG could accept or reject. Rejection allows studios to impose the terms of their final offer, and SAG's recourse, besides capitulation, would be a strike.

SAG's contract talks, which began in April, have bogged down on some of the same issues that led Hollywood writers to walk off the job months ago, including disagreements over how union talent should be paid for work created for the Internet.

SAG also has been pressing for an increase in the residual fees actors earn from TV shows and movies sold on DVD, a demand the studios have vowed never to budge on.

ACTORS' TURF BATTLE   Continued...

<p>The Hollywood sign is seen on a hazy afternoon in Los Angeles, California, November 4, 2007. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>