SAG strike vote postponed

LOS ANGELES SAG announced it would delay sending out the ballots until Jan. 14 at the earliest, after the union's national board holds an emergency meeting. The union initially planned to send strike authorization ballots to more than 100,000 union members on Jan. 2, a date that would have put Oscar night within reach of a potential boycott.

Doug Allen, SAG's national executive director, said the union is split on whether to cast ballots. He said 2,524 members endorse the vote and 1,373 members are opposed, including A-list actors Pierce Brosnan and Cameron Diaz.

"This division does not help our effort to get an agreement ... that our members will ratify," Allen wrote in a letter to union members.

SAG leaders had been pushing for the vote amid stalled contract negotiations with Hollywood studios. But on Dec. 12 a New York faction of the union called for a delay, calling it "irresponsible" to threaten a strike while the industry was in an economic downturn.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the major studios, have been negotiating a new deal with SAG since before the previous contract expired June 30.

AMPTP spokesman Jesse Hiestand said the studios were aware of the delay but had no comment.

Earlier in the day, the AMPTP issued a statement urging SAG members to study the studios' final offer and ask "whether it makes sense to strike over a deal that will raise wages, raise benefits, add new residuals and establish jurisdiction in new media for the first time."

In SAG's letter, Allen notified members that the vote would be delayed at least until after the union's board meets on Jan. 12 and 13.

The guild is seeking union coverage for all Internet-only productions regardless of budget, residual payments for Internet productions replayed in ad-supported platforms online, and continued actor benefits during work stoppages, including those caused by strikes by other unions.

The studios have said a formula for payment in new media formats has already been agreed upon by another actors union, directors, and writers, whose 100-day strike derailed the Golden Globe Awards in January.

The studios have said it was unreasonable for SAG to demand a better deal, especially now that the economy has worsened.

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