Hollywood's biggest actors union approved a new contract with entertainment industry producers, ending a bitter labor dispute that sparked fears of a devastating strike.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) said in a statement its members had voted 78 percent to 22 percent in favor of a two-year contract deal, which had been drawn up in April after closed door negotiations.
SAG members had been working without a formal contract after failing to agree a new deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to replace a previous agreement that expired on June 30 last year.
Multiple attempts to broker a new deal foundered since then, with SAG negotiators seeking greater royalties from sales and showings of work screened on the Internet.
The possibility of a potentially crippling actors' walkout was raised last December, when hardline union leaders announced that a ballot of members would be held to seek authorization for a strike.
However that announcement was met with anger by moderates within SAG, with Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Robert Redford and Russell Crowe amongst dozens of high-profile names to state their opposition to a possible strike.
The moderate backlash led to SAG's lead negotiator, Doug Allen, being forced out, raising hopes that the new bargaining team could seal a deal.
In a sign of the deep divisions within the actors union, SAG President Alan Rosenberg, one of the most trenchant opponents of the new contract, insisted the deal was "devastatingly unsatisfactory."
"The membership has spoken and has decided to work under the terms of this contract that many of us, who have been involved in these negotiations from the beginning, believe to be devastatingly unsatisfactory," Rosenberg said.
The union chief warned he would seek to form an alliance with other entertainment industry guilds to broker new terms in 2011.
"I call upon all SAG members to begin to ready themselves for the battle ahead," he added.
Meanwhile Hollywood producers welcomed the actors' union approval.
"The ratification vote by SAG members is good news for the entertainment industry," an AMPTP statement said.
"We look forward to working with SAG members - and with everyone else in our industry - to emerge from today's significant economic challenges with a strong and growing business."
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