Hollywood film and television studios have put increased pressure on the actors' union to begin contract talks to avert a potential strike.

George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro and Tom Hanks yesterday placed an advert in trade paper Daily Variety urging the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) to begin negotiations with studios as soon as possible.

And now the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) has said it is happy to begin early discussions ahead of the June 30th expiry of their current mutual agreements.

The SAG had worried the AMPTP by refusing to name a date for the commencement of talks, with studios desperate to avoid more industrial action in the wake of the conclusion of the three-month writers' strike.

"We will be ready to begin negotiations at the time that most benefits our members," said SAG national director Doug Allen.

But after the Hollywood A-listers placed their prominent call to action, the AMPTP has responded by confirming it is eager to get the ball rolling.

"We welcome early discussions with the actors' unions, and we know from our Directors' Guild of America (DGA) negotiations that a contract can be reached early and without a strike," a statement said.

The advert from Clooney et al is part of a strategy on behalf SAG members to pressure guild president Alan Rosenberg into beginning early negotiations, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

"The difficulty is high, but nothing can be solved until both parties agree to sit down together and just talk," it read. "Not later, but now. There's too much at stake to wait. It's our hope that both parties can at least agree on that."

But the AMPTP may be concerned by an email sent from Writers' Guild of America (WGA) president Patric Verrone to SAG members, Variety reports.

"Any union's bargaining strength is a function of what management thinks of its members' determination and its leadership's approval," he writes.

"I implore you to give them [union leaders] your faith, your resolve and your patience in the months ahead. The more you trust them to do their job, the better they can do it.

"What the Writers' Guild accomplished this year was the result of our internal solidarity, as well as support from sister guilds and unions nationwide, led by yours."

15/02/2008 11:01:38