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Actors union negotiators meet, deal report said premature

 The Hollywood sign is seen on a hazy afternoon in Los Angeles, California, November 4, 2007. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok - Reuters
The Hollywood sign is seen on a hazy afternoon in Los Angeles, California, November 4, 2007. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
— image credit: Reuters

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood's largest acting union will hold a meeting of its negotiating task force on Tuesday although a spokeswoman said a report of a near deal with movie studios on a new contract was premature.

The task force will meet at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Screen Actors Guild, the biggest U.S. actors' union with 120,000 members.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday that SAG and the Hollywood studios could be close to a deal, but a union spokeswoman said that cannot be confirmed.

"Any report of a tentative agreement on any aspect of our TV/theatrical negotiations is premature," said Pamela Greenwalt, a spokeswoman for SAG.

"SAG's leadership remains engaged in ongoing efforts to secure a fair deal for SAG members," she said.

A representative for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, declined to comment.

David White, interim executive director of SAG, has been in backchannel talks with heads of Hollywood studios, sources with knowledge of the situation said.

SAG is seeking a deal covering film and television performers to replace a contract with Hollywood's major studios that expired on June 30, 2008. Production work has slowed down in Hollywood as a result of the contract talk stalemate.

SAG rejected the studios' "last, best and final" offer during formal negotiations in February with the AMPTP.

The main point of contention was the AMPTP's demand for a three-year deal to end in 2012, while SAG insisted on a retroactive June 30 start date and an expiration in mid-2011 when the Writers Guild of America and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will be up for new deals.

If SAG joined with either of those unions in future talks, industry watchers say it would boost the negotiating leverage of all the unions, which are seeking pay for members' work that goes online.

SAG held out on signing a new contract while its leadership sought concessions from the AMPTP on Internet pay, but after facing rejection on that front it went through a leadership shake-up. Moderates formed a new negotiating task force and ousted chief negotiator Doug Allen in January.

A source with knowledge of the situation said that under a new deal, SAG could obtain a 2011 end date to its contract, but it would have to give up something in return.

The report of a possible breakthrough in negotiations between SAG and the AMPTP comes after an April 1 contract deal with advertisers that SAG obtained for members who appear in commercials.

The union negotiated that deal jointly with AFTRA, a union which represents 70,000 actors, performers and TV journalists and last year reached a contract deal with the Hollywood studios. The deal SAG and AFTRA obtained from advertisers must be ratified by the unions' rank-and-file.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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