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U.S. actors union ends longest-ever strike

The national president of the Screen Actors Guild, William Daniels, and actor Richard Dreyfus speak to union members after the end of the actors strike that began on May 1  

NEW YORK CITY, New York (Reuters) -- Striking actors said Monday they could resume work for the advertising industry as early as next week after settling a dispute over payment for broadcast, cable and Internet commercials, ending a six-month walkout that is the longest in Hollywood history.

Union representatives said their members would be ready to return to work next Monday pending approval of the new agreement by the union board and ratification by mail by members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

"The negotiators ... have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract in the fields of television and radio commercials, effectively ending the strike that began on May 1," Paul Reggio, an actor who referred to himself as "the retired captain of the strike," told a news conference.

Officials of the unions, which represent 135,000 actors, said they had achieved many, but not all, of their goals after the six-month strike, which cost members as much as $2 million per day in session fees and residuals. The ad industry paid SAG and AFTRA members more than $720 million last year.

Actors celebrate at a news conference in New York after reaching an agreement on new three-year contracts for work in radio and TV commercials  

"Our membership has every reason to be happy about this agreement," said SAG President William Daniels, best known for his starring role on the 1980s hospital drama "St. Elsewhere."

The actors fought off a bid by the ad industry, represented by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers, to end residuals for network television ads, in which actors are paid for the number of times their commercials air.

The pay-for-play formula has been used since the 1950s to compensate actors for network commercials and will continue.

The actors failed in their demand to expand residuals to cable ads, instead winning an up-to-140 percent increase in pay for cable ads over the life of the three-year contract.

Another key issue, over ads made exclusively for the Internet, yielded a payment structure for broadcast ads run on the Internet, as well as the unions' securing jurisdiction over ads made especially for use on the Internet.

"We preserved our future with getting jurisdiction on the Internet," Daniels said.

The agreement allows for the industry to bargain freely with union members for a three-year period on Internet ads and requires the ad industry to provide copies of all such deals.

The actors failed to attain a monitoring program for commercials, another major concern, but they did secure a commitment from the advertisers to meet with them and report their findings within six months of the contract's start.

A union-led boycott against major advertiser Procter & Gamble's Tide, Crest and Ivory Soap brands was being scaled back and would be formally dropped after ratification, officials said.

Procter & Gamble was influential in helping reach a deal, the unions said.

Union officials said it was time to begin repairing the damaged relationship with the advertisers and to work on ways of settling future differences without a strike.

"We can all hold our heads high, as can the industry," said AFTRA President Shelby Scott. "Each side got something they wanted ... and I think the industry will be happy that they can start shooting good commercials again," she added.

During the strike advertisers resorted to several tactics to avoid using union actors -- going overseas or to secondary locations far away from New York and Los Angeles, shooting spots without dialogue and re-running old spots.

The union said Monday that members who performed struck work could face lifetime expulsion from the union. British actress Elizabeth Hurley was branded a "scab" by union actors for making a perfume commercial during the strike. She has apologized and said she was unaware of the work stoppage.

Throughout the stoppage, celebrities such as Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins appeared on the actors' behalf.

Observers say six-figure donations to the relief fund from Kevin Spacey, Nicolas Cage, Harrison Ford, Helen Hunt, Eddie Murphy and Bruce Willis increased the pressure on advertisers.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Actors' strike talks continue
October 20, 2000
Elizabeth Hurley faces actors' union hearing
October 19, 2000

Screen Actors Guild
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
Association of National Advertisers
American Association of Advertising Agencies

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