Hollywood actors approve new labor contract

Tue Jun 9, 2009 11:41pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Members of the Screen Actors Guild overwhelmingly approved a two-year contract with Hollywood studios on Tuesday, ending a year-long standoff that pitted top stars against each other and slowed production.

The union, which represents about 120,000 performers, was bitterly divided over the proposed deal, with SAG president Alan Rosenberg leading a hardline faction that demanded better terms, especially for work carried on the Internet.

But going into the postal-ballot count, many members feared a repeat of the 100-day writers strike that cost the Los Angeles area economy as much as $3 billion before it was settled early last year.

Indeed, filmmaking slowed in the past year as producers worried about starting productions and then being forced to shut them down if actors walked off the job.

SAG said 78 percent of members voted to approve the contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the Hollywood studios. The margin was wider than expected.

SAG's old contract expired on June 30, 2008, but actors continued working under its terms. The new pact gives actors a 3 percent wage increase this year, 3.5 percent next year and coverage for work done for the Internet.

Experts say the new deal, which takes effect immediately, should pave the way for some increase in moviemaking even as the industry battles the economic recession.

SHEEN VS. CLOONEY   Continued...

<p>A secret ballot envelope from the Screen Actors Guild contract ratification ballot is pictured in this May 29, 2009 file photo in Los Angeles. Members of the largest U.S. actors union overwhelmingly voted to approve a two-year contract with Hollywood studios, ending nearly a year of labor unrest, in results released by the union on June 9. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files</p>