Hollywood actors, studios head for labor limbo

Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:54pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood actors and studios held a final day of labor talks on Monday before their contract was due to expire, but the midnight deadline was expected to pass with neither a settlement nor a strike.

Barring a last-minute breakthrough, the two sides are headed for a new realm of uncertainty as of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, when the contract covering movie and prime-time television work for 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild runs out.

The labor talks, which began in April, have hit some of the same stumbling blocks that led Hollywood writers to walk off the job months ago, including clashes over how union talent should be paid for work created for the Internet.

Both sides have accused the other of foot-dragging.

"It's pretty astounding that people don't seem to know what's going to happen, and I've spoken to some of the negotiators," said Hillary Bibicoff, a partner with Los Angeles law firm Greenberg Glusker.

Film production by major studios has ground to a near halt in anticipation of a possible work stoppage, though SAG leaders have downplayed the likelihood of a walkout, which would require a 75 percent vote by SAG members and take weeks to organize.

"We have taken no steps to initiate a strike authorization vote," SAG President Alan Rosenberg said in a statement on Sunday. "Any talk about a strike or a management lockout at this point is simply a distraction."

SAG also has signed special waivers with over 300 independent producers allowing actors to continue working for those companies in the event of a strike. Production on many TV shows has plowed ahead as well.   Continued...

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