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SAG board ousts chief

A group of board members making up the majority at the Screen Actors Guild on Monday ousted its chief negotiator and national executive director, Doug Allen, according to a senior member of the board.

A group of board members making up the majority at the Screen Actors Guild on Monday ousted its chief negotiator and national executive director, Doug Allen, according to a senior member of the board.

The move followed months of turmoil at the guild over whether to hold a strike vote, and a contentious meeting two weeks ago when the group tried but failed to fire Allen because of filibustering by other members.

Allen notified the guild executive staff in an email Monday that "the national board has terminated my employment" and wished the guild well.

The move pushes the guild further away from a strike vote and will likely hasten an agreement with studios on a movie and prime-time TV contract that expired last June. Actors have been working since then under the terms of the expired deal.

Anne-Marie Johnson, the guild's first vice-president, said board members making up 52.5 per cent of the voting rights on the 71-member board had signed a document making the move. Guild lawyers authenticated the document, she said.

It was an unusual procedure but not surprising in the wake of the last full board meeting, in which members of a hardline Hollywood group known as Membership First, led by President Alan Rosenberg, delayed a vote on Allen's ouster in a 28-hour marathon session using procedural delays.

"The unrelenting obstruction by a minority of board members has left us no alternative," the group said.

Allen, a former NFL linebacker and NFL Players Association assistant executive director, will be replaced by former guild general counsel David White, as interim national executive director, the group said. Veteran guild staffer John McGuire will take over as lead negotiator.

The group said all but one of the members of the New York branch, all of the regional branch division members and all of the non-Membership First members in Hollywood signed the document. Membership First, now in the minority, has the backing of 25 board members.

Johnson said Allen will be paid his full $500,000 annual salary for the year remaining in his three-year contract. He joined the guild in January 2007.

She said the majority coalition, which included the upstart Hollywood group, Unite for Strength, may retract plans for a strike vote, which had already been delayed several times.

"They were never advocates of trying the best we can do to get a strong contract," she said. "Even though Unite for Strength said, 'We want what Membership First wants but more,' they left out the caveat, 'But we'll never strike nor will we ever ask for strike authorization."'

A spokesman for Unite for Strength did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Late last year, as talks with major Hollywood studios ground to a halt, the guild maintained the studios' final offer was unacceptable because it failed to guarantee guild coverage in productions made for the Internet, failed to make residual payments on made-for-Internet content that is rerun online, and didn't protect actor benefits in unforeseen work stoppages.

But support for a strike vote waned quickly as the economy soured and high-profile actors lobbied on both sides of the issue, fraying efforts at building a consensus within the 120,000-member union.

 
 
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