U.S. actors union requests federal mediation

Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:19pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The U.S. Screen Actors Guild said on Sunday its board had voted to ask that a federal mediator be brought into labor contract negotiations with Hollywood studios.

SAG said the mediator may be asked to send a strike authorization referendum to members if the arbitration process fails. A strike authorization would require 75 percent approval of members who vote.

"We hope mediation will help move this process forward," Screen Actors Guild's national president, Alan Rosenberg, said in a statement.

Talks with Hollywood studios broke off on June 30 when the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers presented SAG with a "final" offer, hours before the old contract lapsed.

At issue is a new contract covering 120,000 union performers in prime-time TV and movies. The two sides are at odds over how actors should be paid for content delivered over the Internet and whether all made-for-online productions should be subject to the union's contract.

The studio offer essentially mirrors terms approved by several other Hollywood unions, including the settlement that ended a 14-week stroke by Hollywood screenwriters in February.

SAG leaders have pressed to reopen negotiations, but the studios have refused.

The union also said four new members have been added to its national negotiating committee -- two from the Hollywood division, one from the New York division and one from the regional branch division.

The last time SAG staged a strike over its main film and TV contract was in 1980, a walkout that lasted three months.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; editing by Todd Eastham)