Hollywood actors union backs off strike threat

Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:39pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Screen Actors Guild president said on Thursday he now wanted his sharply divided union to vote on the Hollywood studios' latest contract offer, not a strike authorization, in hopes of breaking a months-old deadlock in labor talks.

Embracing a reversal of strategy proposed by his embattled executive director, SAG President Allen Rosenberg said he would also press the studios once more to sweeten their offer before submitting it to rank-and-file members for ratification.

SAG's executive director and chief negotiator, Doug Allen, first outlined such a game plan in an e-mail addressed to union leaders a day after he narrowly avoided being fired during a contentious 30-hour meeting of the union's governing board.

"I think Doug has thought of a really brilliant compromise to help get us out of a logjam that's been created out of our own disunity," Rosenberg told Reuters in a telephone interview. "The board ought to get behind his proposal and hear what he has to say."

SAG's 120,000 members have been without a film and prime-time TV contract since their old labor pact expired on June 30, after negotiations collapsed and studios presented their "final" offer for a new deal.

The two sides were most firmly at odds on how actors should be paid for work on the Internet, seen widely as the main distribution pipeline for visual entertainment in the future.

SAG moderates have since pressed for gains in non-Internet areas by urging acceptance of the studios' new-media terms -- essentially the same package approved by several other Hollywood labor groups, including a smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

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