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The Sydney Morning Herald

Filthy about pay, st riking actors won't have a bar of soap

Author: Natasha Wallace
Date: 18/07/2003
Words: 433
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News And Features
Page: 4
Actors downed scripts for a one-day strike yesterday, saying they were fed up with producers reaping most of the financial rewards from successful Australian films and TV shows.

Almost 500 performers in Sydney and Melbourne walked off the job after eight months of negotiations between their union and the Screen Producers Association of Australia for better pay and conditions broke down last week.

The 24-hour stoppage affected several television shows, including Blue Heelers, Neighbours, Stingers, All Saints and Home and Away, and the films Lennie Kahill Shoots Through and Strange Bedfellows.

The deadlock centred on several issues the demand for a standby rate for actors, more certainty on the duration of option contracts for subsequent TV series, and a lifting of the cap on residuals, or royalties, for TV performers.

After an 11th-hour offer from producers, performers yesterday voted to lift weekend work bans, but said further industrial action was likely if an agreement was not reached by next Wednesday.

Simon Whipp , executive director of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance's Equity division, said that under the award, film actors were not entitled to royalties.

In the case of internationally successful films such as Lantana, Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, ``all of them have gone into profit and the performers don't get anything out of it". Actors in the Oscar-winning Moulin Rouge ``will not see another cent in residuals, whether it sells to a US network or not".

But Geoff Brown , executive director of the Screen Producers Association, said this was untrue.

``If it is a US network sale of that film they get an extra payment of 100 per cent of their fee."

He said ``95 per cent of all performers" earned about $394 a day, not the minimum award rate.

But Mitch Firth, 17, a cast member of Home and Away, said his royalties cut out after an episode made more than $95,000. ``A single episode is sold to the UK for over $100,000, so there are 48 other countries that we sell to that we don't see any of the money from."

Georgie Parker, who stars in All Saints, said the conditions under which most actors were employed were ``inexcusable".

``We haven't had a wage increase since 1994, when we also had to strike to get that."

Do actors have a good case? Straw poll at smh.com.au

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