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Top U.K. Stars Endorse Equity

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Stuart Kemp writes for The Hollywood Reporter

(BPI) LONDON

Leading members of the British acting establishment are throwing their star power behind U.K. actors union Equity's efforts to negotiate a new "cinema film agreement" with the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, the union said last week.

Actors backing the Equity dispute with PACT include Alan Rickman, Julie Walters, Kathy Burke, David Suchet, Greta Scacchi, John Hannah, Robbie Coltrane, Pete Postlethwaite, Charles Dance, Simon Callow and Tom Conti.

Equity issued the long list of names only three days before the union's planned closed-door meeting with PACT last Friday, under the heading "Cream of British talent issues warning to film producers."

The U.K. dispute mirrors the negotiations in which members of the Screen Actors Guild are engaged, though the agreement between Equity and PACT is not like U.S. guild contracts; it is an ongoing understanding, signed in November 1998, providing for minimum payments.

The union announced this month that it would end its current agreement Nov. 1. Equity claims that the current structure for residual payments to be made to actors working in the United Kingdom are, according to a spokesman, "simply unjust"

The union is aiming to negotiate "fair payments for actors when their films are shown on television or sold on video or DVD."

The union has also reiterated its intention to "consider escalating the dispute" should the talks that begin Friday fail. Strike action has not been ruled out.

Equity general secretary Ian McGarry said: "You cannot make a film without performers, yet they are being denied a share of the proceeds. I hope that the film producers will take careful note of the strength of feeling being displayed by performers."

Equity has about 36,000 members, while more than 200 production companies are members of PACT.

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