Members of the US actors' union based in New York have urged organisation leaders to begin contract negotiations with film and TV studios.

Doug Allen, the national executive director of the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG), has said the union plans to begin talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) in the spring.

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

But members of the SAG New York board passed a resolution on Thursday calling on guild heads to commence negotiations by the end of March, months before the mutual agreement with the AMPTP expires on June 30th.

"I see absolutely no value to the members in delaying these talks any longer," Sam Freed, the guild's New York president, was quoted by Variety as saying.

"We are dealing with serious issues. We should already be at the bargaining table."

The resolution called on SAG leaders to acknowledge the success of early negotiations in recent contract talks in the industry, with the Directors' Guild of America's (DGA) impromptu talks with the AMPTP helping to push the striking Hollywood writers into action.

It also claims the guild leaders are "wasting valuable time and guild resources fighting with our bargaining partner and unnecessarily delaying the start of negotiations", making reference to a joint bargaining agreement set to be signed with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) before discussions with the AMPTP begin.

30 Rock Star Alec Baldwin, a SAG New York member, added: "SAG should pursue a course similar to the DGA, where early negotiations short-circuit the need for a strike."

In a responsive email to SAG members, guild president Alan Rosenberg and Allen reiterated that it did not plan to begin talks until after March 31st at the earliest.

Hollywood stars including George Clooney, Robert De Niro and Tom Hanks placed an advert in Variety earlier this month urging the SAG to begin negotiations with studios as soon as possible.

29/02/2008 11:45:48