Hopes of a settlement in the ongoing contract dispute between the Screen Actors Guild and the studios suffered the latest setback at the weekend as the Guild's national board of directors rejected the studios' 'best and final offer.'

On Saturday the board of directors voted 73% to 27% in favour of rejecting the Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers' offer dated February 19 after talks collapsed last week. The studio and television producers' offer sought to extend the contract to 2012 and contained several modifications to the last offer presented on June 30 2008.

However the Screen Actors Guild deemed it to contain to significant improvements and the vote leaves the union in limbo, divided as it is by internecine warfare and believed by many observers to lack the internal support for a strike. The onus may switch back to the studios to return with a new offer.

'We entered this round of negotiations sending an unmistakably clear message that we were ready to make a deal,' the board said in a statement. 'In an effort to put the town back to work, our negotiator agreed to modify the Guild's bargaining position to bring the Guild in line with the deals made by our sister unions.

'The AMPTPs last-minute, surprise demand for a new term of agreement extending to 2012 is regressive and damaging and clearly signals the employers' unwillingness to agree to the deal they established with other entertainment unions. The demand for a new term of agreement was not part of their final offer of June 30, 2008; it was not part of the federally mediated talks of November 2008, and should not have been inserted into the discussions when we returned to negotiations on February 17, 2009.

What management presented as a compromise is, in fact, an attempt to separate Screen Actors Guild from other industry unions. By attempting to extend our contract expiration one year beyond the other entertainment unions, the AMPTP intends to de-leverage our bargaining position from this point forward.

'Screen Actors Guild's goal is to successfully complete these negotiations and get the industry back to work as soon as possible. The AMPTP has clearly stated their need and desire for financial certainty and industry peace. This new proposal does the exact opposite, and will only result in constant negotiating cycles and continued labour unrest.'