LOS ANGELES, November 16: Universal
Media Studios has begun notifying regular actors on the NBC series Bionic
Woman, The Office and 30 Rock that it is suspending them on half-pay for five weeks, citing the
force majeure provisions in their Screen Actors Guild (SAG) contracts.
Since the Writers Guild
went on strike on November 5, TV studios have been debating how to deal with
series regulars: whether to invoke the force majeure clause that allows them to
terminate actors for unanticipated or uncontrollable reason, or put them on
hiatus, or take other action, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Usually deals with actors
allow for the force majeure options to be enforced only after production is
suspended, but such a clause could be invoked if the writers’ strike continues.
Last week, Sony Pictures
Television notified regulars on Fox's 'Til Death and CBS's Rules of Engagement, two of the comedies the studio produces, that
they are being put on unpaid hiatus, remaining exclusive to the studio.
This development raised
the anger of unions SAG and AFTRA, claiming that placing actors on unpaid
hiatus is a violation of their joint-TV contract.
According to SAG, the
studios have three options in case of a strike: put series regulars on hold at
full salary, suspend them for a period of up to five weeks at half-pay or
If, like Universal, the
studios opt for suspension, the performers themselves, according to SAG’s
interpretation of the contract, can terminate their deals at the end of the
five-week period. If they don't do that, the studios can choose to keep the
regulars with full pay or end their deals.
Upon termination, actors
are no longer paid and are free to do other projects. When production on the
shows resumes, they are guaranteed to be rehired by the studios under the
original terms of their deals.
Meanwhile Warner Bros.
sent out a letter to employees stating that if the writers’ strike continues,
all of its series, including ER,
Without A Trace, Cold Case and Pushing Daisies,
will shut down in the next six to seven weeks, possibly leading to a loss of
If actors are put on
hiatus, they must drop whatever they’re doing and report back to their series
immediately if those shows resume. If, instead, they are terminated and find
other employment, the actors have to make an effort to accommodate the series,
but their new projects are in first position.
—By Anna Carugati