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Aussie Actors Threaten Strike

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Australian actors involved in film and television productions are threatening industrial action if a dispute with the Screen Producers Assn. of Australia over a list of claims isn't resolved by the end of next month.

A strike would disrupt films and television series, including "Blue Heelers," "Neighbors," "All Saints," "McLeod's Daughters" and "Home and Away."

Discussions between the Actors' Equity division of the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance and SPAA stalled earlier this week.

Simon Whipp, national director of the Equity section, said Wednesday that members had instructed the alliance to go back to SPAA to try and settle the dispute by June 30.

"Or there will be industrial action," said Whipp, who stressed that the action would not affect offshore productions being produced in Australia as they are governed by a separate agreement.

"It would affect indigenous Australian productions only," he said.

The feature film and television program agreements expired at the end of last year, and the alliance has been negotiating new agreements with SPAA covering a range of issues, including rates of pay, hours of work and overtime, superannuation and residuals.

Equity is seeking a minimum weekly fee for a new category of performer called "major role performer," which would cover all regular cast members in a television series and guest stars whose roles require a significant contribution to the production.

At present, guest stars and even some main cast increasingly are paid minimum daily fees of about AUS$400 a day ($262), which includes local and foreign repeat rights and overtime with only one day guaranteed, though they are often forced to be on standby without pay for a whole week.

Regular cast members and guest stars want to receive AUS$1,600 ($1,049) for one day's work as well as better retirement benefits and residuals, including a guaranteed residual for film if a U.S. network sale happens.

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