February 3, 2009 / 6:07 PM / 11 years ago

Judge denies first bid to block SAG, studio talks

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A judge on Tuesday denied a temporary restraining order that would have halted an effort to resume long-stalled labor contract talks between Hollywood’s major studios and the largest U.S. actors union.

SAG President Alan Rosenberg addresses the audience at the 15th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 25, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said the parties seeking the halt, including the president of the Screen Actors Guild, could amend their request and refile it later, which could happen as soon as on Thursday.

SAG, which represents some 120,000 film and television actors, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Hollywood’s major studios, had been expected to restart labor contract talks on Tuesday.

Those negotiations were postponed late on Monday when SAG president Alan Rosenberg and First Vice President Anne-Marie Johnson notified SAG they will legally challenge the recent ouster of chief contract negotiator Doug Allen.

Rosenberg’s and Johnson’s plan included filing a lawsuit to reinstate Allen, and they requested the temporary restraining order to halt any new contract talks until a ruling could be made on their suit. Judge Chalfant denied their motion on a technicality.

Sonia Lee, an attorney for Rosenberg, said the group would try to amend the motion and return to court on Thursday, according to showbusiness newspaper Daily Variety.

No date to restart the talks has been set, and spokespeople for SAG and the AMPTP had no immediate comment after Tuesday’s ruling. Lee could not immediately be reached.

SAG members have been without a film and prime-time TV contract since their old pact expired on June 30, and the AMPTP issued what it said was a last and best offer.

Key sticking points have centered on issues of how much actors should get paid for work distributed over the Internet.

SAG hardliners, led by Rosenberg and Allen, have said the studios’ last offer is not their best, and in January they had sought a strike authorization vote from union members.

But amid rancor within the union, SAG delayed the strike authorization vote and last week moderates on SAG’s national governing board ousted Allen in a procedural move known as a “written assent.” They considered him overly confrontational and unwilling to make compromises necessary to close a deal.

The moderates installed a new chief negotiator and took quick action to restart contract talks.

But in their lawsuit, Rosenberg and Johnson argue the written assent was illegal and they are asking the Los Angeles court to intervene.

Editing by Vicki Allen

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