IATSE and Producers Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

While a deal on a new three-year agreement has been hammered out, at least one Local is recommending non-ratification.
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IATSE, the union that represents most unionized film and TV crew members, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached a tentative deal Thursday on a new three-year contract, following two consecutive days of negotiations and less than one week before the current contract was set to expire. But at least one of the IATSE Local leaders is recommending non-ratification to her board.

Cathy Repola, national executive director of Local 700, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, is recommending non-ratification to her board, calling the deal "a totally, unnecessarily unacceptable agreement" in a memo to members. But Local 700 members may still be bound by the deal, depending on how the other Locals vote.

“This deal will bring significant gains and continued security for the welfare and livelihood of all IATSE members covered by the Basic Agreement,” said IATSE international president Matthew D. Loeb. "With significant wage increases, enhanced turnaround times and other features to reduce long days, and new dedicated revenue streams to strengthen the industry pension, this agreement is a huge victory for the skilled professionals who bring motion pictures to life.”

The crux of the negotiations — with Loeb leading negotiations for the West Coast Locals and AMPTP president Carol Lombardini representing the studios — was largely a labor concern that negotiators for Hollywood studios are starving the IATSE pension plan by refusing demands to contribute residuals from streaming services like Netflix and other subscription VOD platforms to the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans that serve the union’s members. The pension and health plan is funded in part by home video residuals, but with DVD losing steam and streaming services on the rise, IATSE leaders are seeking so-called high-budget SVOD residuals previously achieved in 2014 and 2017 by unions representing directors, writers and actors.

The funding of the plans was addressed in the deal, but in a way that Repola described as "short-sighted and will undoubtedly leave us fighting again int he next round of negotiations." According to her memo, there's no additional hourly pension contribution. And a new media residual is included in the Basic Agreement, but it is not equal to that of guilds such as the DGA, WGA or SAG-AFTRA.

Repola also related that "all signatories of the agreement (excepting the major studios and any other companies they designate) will be subject to a $0.75 per hour contribution increase to the health plan each year of the agreement and results in a $2.25 per contribution hour increase by the third year."

She added that this could have "detrimental impact" on members and lets the studios "put a burden on small companies while avoiding any substantial contributions to the plans themselves."

The Local was also seeking to change its turnaround time from eight to 10 hours. The deal currently calls for nine hours with some exceptions.

Local 700 is a so-called "national local" in IATSE’s complement of 14 Los Angeles-based West Coast studio locals. Most only have jurisdiction in 13 Western states, but Locals 600 (International Cinematographers) and 700 have nationwide reach. Including 800 (Art Directors), they are said to be the three largest of the group. The contract, the IATSE Basic Agreement, applies to a total of 14 Locals.

In a strong showing of solidarity, nearly 2,000 members of Local 700 gathered last Saturday in Universal City for a three-hour meeting in what a union board member called an “electric” atmosphere charged with enthusiasm for a potential strike. Additionally, roughly 300 gathered in New York on July 17 and 80 in the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, IATSE is not the only union looking at the 2014 and 2017 high-budget SVOD formulas and demanding a piece. As The Hollywood Reporter previously reported, SAG-AFTRA obtained a strike authorization and may soon resume negotiations over the issue, because its members who do voiceover work in television animation for high-budget SVOD programs don’t receive residuals and want the same payments as their live-action colleagues.