Rocked by growing internal dissent that is splintering Hollywood's largest union, the Screen Actors Guild has postponed plans for a controversial strike authorization vote until after the union's national board meets to discuss the matter.

The union's 120,000 members were poised to vote on the planned strike referendum next month, with ballots going out Jan. 2.

But in an e-mail to the union's board members Monday night, SAG Executive Director Doug Allen said he and SAG President Alan Rosenberg agreed to push back the strike referendum until after the board convenes a special meeting Jan. 12 to "address the unfortunate division and restore consensus."

"This division does not help our effort to get an agreement from the [studios] that our members will ratify," Allen wrote. "This will provide us with more time to conduct member education and outreach on the referendum before the balloting."

The union's leadership has argued that a strike authorization vote is necessary to give them leverage in contract negotiations with the studios that have stalled for months.

To pass, a strike authorization must be approved by 75% of members who vote.

But the guild's "education campaign" to build support for the referendum has met with growing resistance within the union.

Opposition boiled over last week when SAG's New York members openly rebuked Rosenberg and demanded that he call off the strike vote. Rosenberg has repeatedly spurned the idea, saying that would undermine the union and only benefit the studios.

More than 130 high-profile actors, including Tom Hanks, Robert Redford and George Clooney, have also urged the union to reconsider its decision.

But SAG says nearly 100 celebrities, including Mel Gibson and former SAG President Ed Asner, have declared their support, arguing that the studios' contract offer is unacceptable and threatens the future of actors in the digital era.

Just what the board may do at the Jan. 12 meeting is uncertain.

Although Allen said in the e-mail that the strike vote would begin immediately after the meeting, that is by no means clear.

In fact, moderates, who hold a slim majority on the board, are expected to press for a delay in the strike vote to see whether negotiations can resume with the studios.

The board could vote to replace the current negotiating committee with a task force, as New York division board members have advocated.

The board also could move to have Allen step aside as the chief negotiator.