October 2, 2008 / 4:28 AM / 9 years ago

Hollywood actors union seeks authority for strike

<p>The Hollywood sign is seen on a hazy afternoon in Los Angeles in a file photo.Danny Moloshok</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Film and television actors ratcheted up pressure on Hollywood's major studios on Wednesday when negotiators, stalled in labor talks with producers, sought backing to put a strike authorization vote to guild members.

Contract negotiators for the Screen Actors Guild, which is the largest U.S. actors union with some 120,000 members, passed a resolution seeking the endorsement of SAG's national board for guild members to vote on whether to call a work stoppage, which, if it occurred, would be the second halt this year.

Late on Wednesday, SAG released the resolution passed by its contract negotiating committee, but said it would have no further comment.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major studios, shot back with its own statement asking, "Is this really the time for anyone in the entertainment business to be talking about going on strike?"

But SAG said a strike authorization vote by members "is necessary to overcome the employers' intransigence."

A strike authorization ballot is not a vote on a work halt, but it does give union leaders leverage in the contract talks that stalled back in July after a final offer from the AMPTP.

The entertainment industry is on edge about another possible work stoppage on the heels of the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike that crippled film and TV production.

That work stoppage, whose issues centered largely on work performed for the Internet, lasted some 14 weeks and cost the local economy as much as $3 billion by some estimates.

SAG's resolution comes after several recent exchanges between the two in recent days.

Earlier this week, SAG's National Negotiating Committee, which passed Wednesday's resolution, sent a letter to the AMPTP and key studio executives urging a restart to formal talks. In the letter, SAG highlighted new media work as a key issue.

The studios responded by saying its last offer in June was comparable with contracts signed by writers and directors, and the AMPTP did not think new talks would be productive.

On Wednesday, the AMPTP said in its statement that "it is unrealistic for SAG negotiators now to expect even better terms" than the other guilds.

Reuters/Nielsen

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