U.K. thesps warn of action

Talks to begin Friday

LONDON — Equity, Britain’s main actors’ union, warned film producers Tuesday that they could face industrial action if talks later this week fail to win better pay and conditions for performers.

The dispute mirrors problems in the U.S., where the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television & Radio Artists are seeking more money for members before their contract expires July 1.

It also comes at a time of rare box office success for British films, including “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Billy Elliot.”

“The cream of British talent has sent a stark message to U.K. film producers — pay us properly or face a dispute,” said Equity, whose 36,000 members represent the majority of the country’s performers.

Equity and Pact, the film producers’ organization, are due to open talks Friday. Actors will demand a bigger slice of profits from successful movies as well as proceeds when films are shown on television or sold on video.

“If these talks fail, Equity is bound to consider escalating the dispute,” a spokesman said. Pact was not available for comment.

Union spokesman Martin Brown said that a strike would be a last resort but remained a possibility. Alternatively, stars could refuse roles to highlight the plight of their colleagues, putting pressure on filmmakers who need big names to pressure the producers org.

Equity has already given six months’ notice on its cinema films agreement to get bigger payments for actors when their pics are shown on television, video or DVD.

British actors are paid a flat fee in advance for television broadcasts of films and for video and DVD sales. ”But they get nothing extra, unlike their American colleagues, if a film is a success,” Equity said.

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