Hollywood producers want industry to keep working

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- Hollywood producers sent the clearest sign yet Monday that they won't lock out actors if they are unable to agree on a contract before the current pact expires early today.

Ads in trade publications argued the entertainment industry had suffered enough from previous work stoppages over contract disputes.

"Let's keep working," the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in full-page ads appearing in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

The ads cited figures from the Milken Institute that showed the 100-day writers strike that ended in February had put more than 37,000 people out of work and resulted in $2.3 billion in lost wages.

"Enough is enough," said the ad, which also showed picketing strikers beneath the words "Harmful and Unnecessary."

The Screen Actors Guild appeared ready to keep negotiating, saying Sunday that it had not called for a strike authorization vote by members.

The exchange came as Hollywood waited nervously to see if the labor dispute would halt TV and film production.

"The producers remain committed to reaching a deal by today's deadline and do not believe there is any good reason for SAG's Hollywood leadership to stall these talks into July," alliance spokesman Jesse Hiestand said.

Last week, SAG accused the studios of offering a contract worth less than an agreement already approved by leaders of the smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

SAG made the claim amid demands in Hollywood that it accept the same deal. SAG did not provide details on the differences between the offers.

SAG represents 120,000 actors in movies, TV and other media. The TV and radio federation represents 70,000 members, including actors, singers, announcers and journalists.

SAG and AFTRA share 44,000 dual members. SAG is urging those members to vote against the AFTRA contract because its approval would handcuff ongoing talks between SAG and the studios.

Results of the AFTRA ratification vote were expected to be announced July 8.

Studios have said film and TV production has already been disrupted because SAG leaders are dragging out the talks until the AFTRA results are announced.

The dispute has split actors. Jack Nicholson, Josh Brolin, Holly Hunter and others support SAG's tactics. Others including Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey have urged support of the AFTRA deal.

SAG has said it can improve on the AFTRA deal, especially in the areas of residual payments for DVD sales, compensation for Internet content, minimum wages, mileage reimbursement and the issue of product integration into scripted scenes.

Late Sunday, the guild reported on its Web site that thousands of actors have said they voted against the AFTRA contract.

SAG also said more than 3,000 actors have signed a statement of solidarity supporting its negotiators.

"Thousands of you from all around the country are telling us you voted no on the AFTRA contract and support our goal to raise the bar for all actors and their families," the guild said.

The guild did not immediately respond to messages left Monday seeking further details.

AFTRA, meanwhile, continued to urge members to ratify its proposed agreement.

"The new AFTRA contract puts real money in actors' wallets," the federation said in a Sunday e-mail to members.

On the Net:

Screen Actors Guild, www.sag.org

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, www.aftra.com

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