February 3, 2009 / 5:07 AM / 8 years ago

Legal move halts talks for new actors' contract

4 Min Read

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Like a horror movie with one false ending after another, the Screen Actors Guild story continues to twist and turn but refuses to bend toward resolution.

National president Alan Rosenberg and first vice president Anne-Marie Johnson notified the guild Monday that they are seeking legal action, industry sources said, effectively halting the resumption of talks for a new TV/film contract between the performers union and Hollywood producers that were to have begun Tuesday morning.

SAG said Monday in announcing the indefinite postponement of negotiations, "Screen Actors Guild today notified the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers that the guild had received a notice of intent to file a complaint (Tuesday)."

Rosenberg and Johnson's move further escalates a brutal internecine battle within the union, one that has seen a 28-hour, all-night national board meeting; the removal of the guild's national executive director and chief negotiator, Doug Allen; and the disbanding of its negotiating committee by written decree.

Rosenberg and Johnson's unspecified legal maneuver, a source said, seeks to reinstate Allen, who was replaced by interim national executive director David White and chief negotiator John McGuire. Board moderates attempted to remove Allen and replace the negotiating committee at the marathon board meeting last month, but Rosenberg and his MembershipFirst allies on the board effectively staged a filibuster, preventing it from being voted on.

Two weeks later, board moderates fired Allen by written assent, a document signed by a 52.5 percent majority of board members.

No Talks for Months

Representatives from SAG and the AMPTP were to meet Tuesday for the first time in more than two months to take yet another crack at cutting a deal for a new three-year TV/theatrical contract.

"Screen Actors Guild has advised us that it has a court proceeding that will conflict with our meeting this week, and for that reason both parties felt it made sense to reschedule the meeting to a later date," the AMPTP said Monday.

Reached by phone in the early evening, Rosenberg declined comment on the document.

The guild for the past seven months has been working under the terms of its previous contract, which expired June 30. On that date, the AMPTP delivered to SAG what it called its final offer.

The union and the producers were most firmly at odds over how actors should be paid for work on the Internet, seen as the main distribution pipeline for visual entertainment in the future.

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

The impasse between SAG and the AMPTP lasted until November 20, when the sides met again in a failed two-day effort at federal mediation. SAG immediately announced that it was planning a strike-authorization vote, and the parties have not spoken officially since. Meanwhile, the guild bloodied itself internally over whether to go ahead with that vote.

A week ago, a coalition of anti-strike forces in the guild removed Allen as chief negotiator and national executive director and replaced him with White and McGuire.

Within two days, McGuire had reached out to the AMPTP and scheduled the new negotiation session for Tuesday at the AMPTP's Sherman Oaks headquarters. The sides had planned to meet Wednesday as well.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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