LOS ANGELES — A sudden split between two actors unions over the weekend added an unhappy twist to Hollywood’s troubled contract cycle: It appeared to weaken the labor organizations without making life easier for the studios they bargain with.
On Saturday, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists suspended its bargaining alliance with the Screen Actors Guild, just before a board meeting where they hoped to approve a joint negotiating strategy.
The actors’ current contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires on June 30, and talks about a new contract were to have begun within two weeks.
Now Aftra, the smaller of the two unions, says it plans to open talks with the producers on its own as quickly as possible. In a brief statement, the studios’ alliance said it welcomed the prospect.
Hollywood, however, stands little to gain from a showdown. Having barely recovered from a three-month writers strike, television producers have been rushing to get their series back on track. Movie studios, meanwhile, are hurrying to finish productions like Universal Pictures’ “Land of the Lost” — a Will Ferrell comedy that was being shot last week at the La Brea Tar Pits, a half block from the actors guild headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard — before facing the possibility of another walk-out.
Informal discussions between the federation and the studios could begin immediately, but formal talks might be delayed by separate negotiations scheduled in early April between the companies and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes, which represents production workers.
In an interview on Sunday, Alan Rosenberg, president of the Screen Actors Guild, said his union might now accelerate its timetable so that it would not have to negotiate behind the federation, which is known as Aftra. “We have to move much more quickly than we wanted to,” Mr. Rosenberg said.
The exchanges concealed some dangerous complications, beyond the potential scheduling conflicts. Neither actors union is quite as strong without the other. Both face the possibility that disparate contracts will lead to a protracted struggle for representation of actors on television shows, including prime time series, that could be represented by either.
And the movie and television companies now face the possibility that the actors guild, which has been pressing more assertive positions than the federation, will hold out for bigger gains on its own than would have been possible in joint talks.