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2007-11-16

Studios Suspend Actors as Result of Writers’ Strike

LOS ANGELES, November 16: Universal Media Studios has begun notifying regular actors on the NBC series Bionic Woman, The Office

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 terminate them.

 

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 jobs.

 

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

 

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