Quebec enters IATSE-AQTIS dispute

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MONTREAL -- The Quebec government on Thursday intervened to referee a possible negotiated end to an 18-month turf war between rival film production unions over Hollywood movie shoots in Montreal.

Quebec culture minister Line Beauchamp said she has agreed to form a working group of industry experts to restore Hollywood's presence locally by sharing jurisdiction over behind-the-camera technicians' jobs on U.S. movie shoots between IATSE and a rival Quebec union, the Alliance quebecoise des techniciens de l'image et du son (AQTIS).

"It's incumbent upon us to participate in the search for long-term solutions to help foreign productions and to maintain jobs," Beauchamp said.

The government intervention comes at the request of AQTIS, which has been locked in a dispute with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees since the U.S.-based union opened a Montreal local in 2005 and began making a play for AQTIS jobs.

To end the union battle, AQTIS has proposed that IATSE gain jurisdiction over "independent American productions," or Hollywood movie shoots that are foreign-controlled.

That concession comes despite AQTIS insisting that Quebec's protectionist Status of the Artist legislation precludes incursions by foreign unions, including IATSE. In return, AQTIS wants the provincial government to ensure fairness around a compromise agreement between the rival unions and to prevent a wider exodus of jobs to IATSE.

AQTIS is especially concerned that its peace accord with IATSE could prompt local Quebec producers to similarly ignore the Status of the Artist legislation to get around hiring its members.

At the same time, AQTIS president Richard Saint-Pierre said the end to the union battle is required as Hollywood gears up for its spring 2007 shooting season.

"It is essential that, as quickly as possible, we reassure American producers who are currently putting the finishing touches on their production schedules for the coming months," he said.

Under the terms of the compromise agreement, producers from the U.S. and elsewhere are entitled to take charge of their own productions in Quebec provided they invest at least 51% of the production budgets there.

Calls to John Lewis, IATSE director of Canadian affairs, and U.S.-based IATSE spokeswoman Katherine Orloff were not returned by press time.
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