Hours before their contract with film and TV performers was due to expire, Hollywood studios on Monday capped weeks of stalemated labor talks by presenting the Screen Actors Guild a "final offer."
SAG said in a brief statement it would study the industry's 43-page proposal and "prepare a response to management once that analysis is complete."
"This offer does not appear to address some key issues important to actors," SAG executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen added in the statement.
The two sides agreed to meet again on Wednesday to discuss the industry's proposal.
The existing three-year contract covering movie and prime-time television work for 120,000 SAG members was due to expire at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, and the parties have remained at odds for months over the terms of a new deal.
The labor talks, which began in April, hit some of the same stumbling blocks that led Hollywood writers to walk off the job months ago, including clashes over how union talent should be paid for work created for the Internet.
SAG leaders have downplayed the likelihood of staging their own walkout, which would require a 75 percent vote by SAG members and take weeks to organize. But major studios are taking no chances, with virtually all their film productions shut down to avoid costly labor disruptions.
"Our final offer to SAG represents a final hope for avoiding further work stoppages," the studios' bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said in a three-page statement circulated to the media.
Done With Bargaining
The producers alliance said its package was worth more than $250 million in additional compensation to SAG members and was patterned after previous deals negotiated with writers, directors and SAG's smaller sister, union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or AFTRA.
SAG leaders have launched an all-out campaign to persuade their 40,000 members who belong to both actors unions to reject AFTRA's recently brokered TV contract in a ratification vote that comes to a close on July 8.
They argued that defeating the AFTRA deal could give SAG the leverage it needed to clinch a more favorable settlement with the industry.
But the studios' move on Monday demonstrated that they were not willing to await the outcome of the AFTRA vote.
A spokesman for the producers alliance said studio negotiators were ready to explain their proposal and answer further questions from SAG at Wednesday's meeting but were done with bargaining.
The basic terms of the old contract remain in effect for the time being, though its expiration puts the union on the defensive.
It is now up to SAG leaders to accept the studios' final offer, reject it out of hand or submit it to union members for a vote, with or without some kind a recommendation.
A rejection would free the studios to impose terms of their final offer, and SAG's only recourse at that point, besides capitulation, would be a strike.
While film production by major studios has virtually ground to a halt, SAG has signed special waivers with over 300 independent producers allowing actors to continue working for those companies in the event of a walkout. Production on many TV shows has plowed ahead as well.
The last time Hollywood actors staged a strike over their main film and TV contract was in 1980, a three-month walkout to establish terms for pay-TV and video cassette production.