Hollywood Actors to Decide on Contract this Week

LOS ANGELES ~ Hollywood’s top actors’ union said on Tuesday it will respond to a final contract offer by studios later this week, as pressure mounted on the body to agree a deal.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) said in a two-paragraph statement it would announce its position to the offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) at a meeting on Thursday.

Later on Tuesday, the 120,000-strong SAG suffered a defeat in its bid to persuade the smaller 70-000 member American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to reject a separate deal from the alliance.

Guild leaders had urged around 44,000 AFTRA voters who are also SAG members to reject the contract proposal, arguing that a ‘yes’ vote would undermine its own negotiations.

SAG had launched an aggressive lobbying campaign in order to defeat the AFTRA contract, a tactic that led to several A-list stars such as Tom Hanks and Jack Nicholson campaigning against each other.

However AFTRA members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new contract Tuesday by a 62.4 percent margin, leaving SAG isolated as the only major entertainment industry labor group not to have agreed a new contract.

Industry analysts say the AFTRA decision will put pressure on SAG leaders to avoid a potentially damaging strike, just months after the crippling 100-day screenwriters walkout which caused an estimated US$2 billion in losses.

“Today’s vote reflects the ability of AFTRA members to recognize a solid contract when they see it,” AFTRA President Roberta Reardon said.

“Despite an unprecedented disinformation campaign aimed at interfering with our ratification process, a majority of members ultimately focused on what mattered.”

SAG President Alan Rosenberg insisted AFTRA’s deal was “inadequate” and suggested the body had acted only in the interests of members who did not have dual membership of both organizations.

“We knew AFTRA would appeal to its many AFTRA-only members, who are news people, sportscasters and DJs, to pass the tentative agreement covering acting jobs,” Rosenberg said in a statement.

Hollywood is currently in limbo after a previous contract between SAG and the AMPTP expired on June 30 with no new deal ready to replace it.

Ill-tempered negotiations between SAG and AMPTP had echoed the build-up to the writers strike. Echoing that dispute, actors are seeking an improved share of royalty profits from new media and Internet sales.

The producers alliance said Tuesday that the AFTRA contract ratification showed to SAG’s leaders there was “not much support for a strike, whether de factor or real.”

“We hope that SAG’s Hollywood leadership will allow SAG members to vote on AMPTP’s final offer – which would give SAG members more than $250 million in additional compensation and important new media rights,” AMPTP said in a statement.

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