Studios, Teamsters craft a deal

Pact paves way for resumption of talks with writers

Studio reps can turn their attention back to WGA contract talks following an early-morning agreement with Teamsters Local 399 and four craft unions Wednesday.

The unions' most recent pact with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers expired 90 minutes before the parties shook hands at 1:30 a.m. on a new three-year agreement for drivers, electricians, plumbers and others. Members at the unions will vote on whether to accept the agreement, which would be implemented retroactively to Wednesday upon ratification.

Meanwhile, labor and management reps were expected to be consulting their calendars to pick a date for getting their fledgling WGA-AMPTP negotiations back on course. No new session is expected until next week at the earliest.

"We're ready," WGA West spokesman Neal Sacharow said. "When they say they're ready, we're ready to get back to the table and negotiate based on the fair and reasonable proposals we have presented."

The AMPTP's negotiations with the WGA had been on hold until the Teamsters' talks concluded. The guild has participated in two negotiating sessions so far, with the current AMPTP-WGA pact set to expire Oct. 31.

The Teamsters — whose members make up almost two-thirds of the 6,000 union workers covered by the AMPTP agreement — took a strike vote July 22 to keep pressure on management in the homestretch of their negotiations. The parties, which launched early talks for a new contract in February, resumed bargaining Monday after a brief hiatus.

The Teamsters local, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 40, Studio Utility Employees Local 724, Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 755 and Plumbing and Pipe Fitters Local 78 are expected to vote on the new pact within the next few weeks. The unions' negotiating committee is recommending approval, and ratification is expected.

"Our members will be pleased once they have seen the agreement," said Leo Reed, secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters local and chairman of the basic crafts group.

Added AMPTP president Nick Counter, "The Teamsters and other basic crafts should be commended for their professional and responsible approach to negotiations, allowing us to reach a fair deal that assures production will continue under their agreements."

Officials refused to disclose pact details pending ratification votes, but it's known that the agreement includes substantial increases to pay and benefits.

"We accomplished what we needed to accomplish," Teamsters Local 399 spokesman Steve Dayan said. "The negotiations were long, but they were fruitful. I have to commend Leo Reed for the tough bargaining stance he took during these negotiations. I take my hat off to him and to the leaders of the basic crafts."
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