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Leaders of actors union approve labor deal

Leaders of the second-largest actors union in Hollywood approved a new contract with studios.

Leaders of Hollywood’s second-largest actors union approved a new contract with studios that grants actors more money for Internet work — an issue that sparked a crippling writers strike this year.

The board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists approved the three-year deal late Friday, and it will go to the union’s 70,000 members for ratification this month, the union said Saturday. The existing contract was set to end June 30.

The agreement “makes sense for all performers,” AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon said in the statement. “AFTRA members now have the opportunity to vote ’yes’ for higher pay, improved working conditions, and continued right of consent for use of excerpts in New Media.”

The deal covers only a handful of prime-time TV shows, including HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the CBS drama “Rules of Engagement” and ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia.”

The 120,000-member Screen Actors Guild, which is the larger and more combative of Hollywood’s two actor unions, continues to negotiate with the studios. It still has the power to shut down Hollywood film production.

Following scriptThe AFTRA agreement largely followed a script laid out in contracts approved by directors in January and by writers after their 100-day strike ended in February.

It established higher fees for downloaded content and residual payments for ad-supported streams and clips.

It also sets a 90-day deadline after ratification for developing a system for actors to consent to the online use of clips containing their images or voices.

SAG had pushed for more concessions by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The two unions had agreed to the same starting proposals but took different tacks with the studios — the first time they had negotiated separately for the first time in 27 years. About 44,000 actors are members of both unions.

In March, AFTRA accused SAG of trying to entice actors in the soap drama “The Bold and the Beautiful” to abandon the federation and said it was “in the best interests of our members” to deal with the studios on its own.

AFTRA began its own negotiations on May 7 after SAG temporarily suspended its studio talks. AFTRA’s board gave tentative approval to the contract on May 28 — and hours later, SAG returned to the bargaining table.

In its statement Saturday, AFTRA said its board rejected a SAG request to delay ratification of the new contract until SAG concluded its own negotiations. AFTRA’s board also warned that it might pursue “legal remedies” if SAG tried to “undermine or interfere with our ratification process.”

A call to a SAG spokeswoman seeking comment was not immediately returned Saturday.

Seeking better dealSAG president Alan Rosenberg has insisted that his union would push for a better deal. In a message to members May 27, he said the guild would still fight to increase payments for DVD appearances in the form of pension and health care contributions.

Rosenberg said the guild would also push to give actors a say regarding product endorsements in scripted scenes and argue for jurisdiction to cover projects created for the Internet, even those with low budgets.

Both AFTRA and SAG had said they wanted to avoid a repeat of the 110-day writers strike that ended in February. That walkout shut down production on dozens of TV shows and cost the Los Angeles-area economy an estimated $2.5 billion.

Pressure for a speedy resolution came from A-list actors such as Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, who took out ads in trade publications in March calling for talks to start months ahead of the June 30 contract expiration date.

The possibility of a strike sent some film producers rushing to finish shooting or delaying projects for fear they would be shut down before filming was complete.

SAG reached separate deals that cleared the way for more than 300 independent productions to raise financing and start work. The agreements called for those companies to abide retroactively by the long-term contract eventually reached with the major studios.

SAG represents actors in movies, TV and other media. The TV and radio federation represents, among others, actors, singers, announcers and journalists.