Hollywood studios have criticised the head of the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) for claiming a strike would not affect the film and television industry.
The SAG wants its members to strike over what it sees as an unfair contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
Under current agreements, actors receive a one-off fee for their work, rather than residual payments when the shows are repeated or screened online.
Though the actors' union has postponed a vote on industrial action until mid-January at the earliest, executive director Doug Allen told members on Tuesday that a strike would not "shut down" film and television production.
"If the SAG national board is authorised to call a strike, we all hope a strike will not be necessary," he explained.
"But, if the national board decides to call one, it will not 'shut down' the industry. Why not? Because the national board's decision would have no effect on work done under the guild's other contracts."
A statement from the AMPTP rubbished Allen's claims in the light of the economic downturn.
"Today's SAG statement suggesting that a SAG strike would not have a devastating impact on our industry, in the midst of the greatest economic turmoil since the Great Depression, simply defies reality," it said.
"The 100-day writers strike - which resulted in the writers receiving the same terms that the Directors' Guild of America [DGA] achieved without a strike - cost our economy $2.5 billion [£1.7 billion].
"A SAG strike would cost the working families who depend on our industry even more - at a time when everyone is already under extreme pressure by the unprecedented national economic crisis."
Allen's letter to SAG members claimed workers employed in advertising, basic cable and video games would not be affected by an SAG strike
A ballot on a possible strike has been postponed until January 14th at the earliest.
Should 75 per cent of members approve industrial action, the SAG could authorise a strike, which could disrupt the Oscars on February 22nd.
The BBC drama starring Aidan Turner returns to BBC One on September 4th.