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Screen Actors Guild board narrowly OKs new contract

April 19, 2009 |  6:01 pm

The Screen Actors Guild board of directors, moving a step closer toward resolving a nine-month stalemate with the studios that rattled Hollywood's nerves and roiled its largest entertainment union, narrowly approved a new film and TV contract for its members this afternoon.

In a split vote reflecting ongoing fissures within the union, the board voted 53% in favor of a new two-year contract that is largely modeled on one forged last year by other Hollywood talent guilds. Approval was expected because the board is now controlled by the union's moderate wing.

The recession, a series of strategic missteps and sparring with a smaller actors union undercut SAG's bargaining leverage, leaving it unable to deliver the contract gains it had earlier vowed to achieve. But hardliners who dominated SAG’s board when contract talks with the studios began last year were subsequently overturned in elections.

Among other things, the contract provides for pay increases of 3.5% a year and establishes payments for shows streamed over the Web. The contract, however, does not give actors rerun fees, known as residuals, for most shows created for the Internet, a sore point among critics, including SAG President Alan Rosenberg, who voted against the agreement.

Rosenberg staunchly backed former Executive Director Doug Allen, who was fired by the board in January. The board accused Allen of bungling contract talks and leading a costly war against rival actors union American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which peacefully negotiated its own contract last year.

In his place, the board tapped David White as interim executive director and John McGuire, who acted as the chief negotiator in the latest round of talks.

In order to be ratified, the contract must be approved by a majority of members in a vote that will occur in the next four to five weeks. Actors have been working without a contract since June 30, 2008.

-- Richard Verrier

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