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After an unprecedented strike authorization, IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached a tentative contract deal Saturday that narrowly averted a major work stoppage. If the deal hadn’t been reached, IATSE members working under affected contracts would have been expected to show up to picket at locations determined by their Locals, such as major studios, starting Monday.
IATSE and the AMPTP confirmed the news, which was first reported by Deadline, on Saturday. The new three-year deal will now go to union members for ratification.
In a letter sent to members, leaders of the 13 West Coast Locals said the tentative deal applied to the 2021 Basic and Videotape Agreements: “Everything achieved was because you, the members, stood up and gave us the power to change the course of these negotiations. Our solidarity, at both the leadership and rank and file level, was the primary reason that no local was left behind and every priority was addressed,” it read. Negotiations continue for IATSE’s Area Standards Agreement, the union said.
According to the letter, union priorities that were satisfied in the agreement (though no granular details were provided) included living wages, better wages and working conditions on streaming projects, 3 percent annual increases of scale wages that are retroactive, “employer-funded benefits” during the course of the contract, higher meal penalties, daily 10-hour turnarounds for all and 54- and 32-hour weekend rest periods. Other features include incorporating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a holiday, diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, amplified sick leave benefits, and more Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans hours for on-call employees.
More details about the agreement will be made available to union members “over the next few days,” the letter adds.
In a statement about the deal, IATSE international president Matthew Loeb said, “This is a Hollywood ending.” He added, “Our members stood firm. We are tough and united.”
IATSE vice president and motion picture director Mike Miller added, “Our members will see significant improvements, but our employers also will benefit.” He said, “This settlement allows pre-production, production and post-production to continue without interruption. Workers should have improved morale and be more alert. Health and safety standards have been upgraded.”
If a strike had been called, it would have affected projects produced under the union’s and the AMPTP’s Basic Agreement, Area Standards Agreement and Videotape Agreement, which have all expired, and prompted around 60,000 workers to withhold their labor. AMPTP president Carol Lombardini was the lead negotiator for the AMPTP, while Loeb and Miller led IATSE’s end of the talks. They have been back in negotiations since Oct. 5, when IATSE returned to the table armed with a strike authorization vote overwhelmingly approved by their members.
Immediate reaction from IATSE members to the tentative agreement has been mixed, with some left with questions because IATSE’s initial email about the deal was vague in its details.
The decision arrives after months of turbulent negotiations between the union representing many of the industry’s crewmembers and the AMPTP, which bargains on behalf of the studios. Though Basic Agreement talks began in May, they were delayed twice before resuming again in August, after which point the union began warning members that its negotiators and producers remained “very far apart” in their vision for a contract. On Sept. 20, Loeb and 13 West Coast Locals leaders informed membership that they were going to hold a strike authorization vote because of a “failure to continue negotiating” on the AMPTP’s part. (The AMPTP maintained that it had “put forth a deal-closing comprehensive proposal” that the union had decided to reject.) A strike was then authorized by more than 98 percent of union members.
Even after negotiations resumed following the vote, tensions ran high. Union insiders claimed the AMPTP wasn’t working efficiently enough to address their concerns, and on Oct. 13 Loeb announced a tentative strike date of Monday, Oct. 18, at 12:01 a.m. PT. “The pace of bargaining doesn’t reflect any sense of urgency,” he said. “Without an end date, we could keep talking forever. Our members deserve to have their basic needs addressed now.”
The Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement expired on Sept. 10, though members were informed to continue working under their old agreement until told otherwise. The Videotape Agreement expired on Sept. 30.
The union has long told members that sticking points in talks centered on establishing adequate rest and meal periods, higher minimum rates for certain crafts, more compensation from streaming and “new media” projects, and funding for its pension and health plan. In the past week, disagreement was said to especially center on rest periods and streaming compensation.
As talks dragged on between the two sides, union members spearheaded two separate social media campaigns that activated and galvanized colleagues. Members of IATSE Local 871 launched the #IALivingWage hashtag, which saw script coordinators, writers assistants, assistant production coordinators and art department coordinators discussing their financial struggles in crafts that all have contractual minimum pay rates of less than $18 an hour. In July, a set lighting technician started an Instagram account, IA Stories, which anonymously shared stories of long hours and challenging work conditions on film sets. The account now has more than 150,000 followers.
Thirteen Locals work under the Basic Agreement, including the largest, Local 600 (International Cinematographers Guild), which represents 9,000 members. It reported that 92 percent of eligible members participated in the strike authorization vote, with 99 percent voting “yes.” Local 700 (Motion Picture Editors Guild), with 8,500 members, similarly got out 92 percent of eligible voters, with 98 percent voting”yes.”
The Basic Agreement also covers Local 800 (art directors), Local 44 (affiliated property craftspersons), Local 80 (studio grips, crafts service, set medics, marine department and warehouse workers), Local 695 (production sound technicians, television engineers, video assist technicians and studio projectionists), Local 705 (motion picture costumers), Local 706 (makeup artists and hairstylists), Local 728 (studio electrical lighting technicians), Local 729 (set painters and sign writers), Local 884 (studio teachers), Local 871 (script supervisors/continuity, coordinators, accountants & allied production specialists) and Local 892 (costume designers).
During the negotiations period, major entertainment unions, legislators and organizations including the American Society of Cinematographers and American Cinema Editors offered statements of support for IATSE.
In a statement about the deal on Saturday, Directors Guild of America president Lesli Linka Glatter said, “The DGA applauds the conclusion of IATSE’s negotiations with the AMPTP. The IATSE took an important stand on quality-of-life and living wage issues, and achieved a strong contract with meaningful improvements for its members. We congratulate IATSE President Matt Loeb and the negotiating committee on their success in advancing the rights of their members.”
“We are pleased and relieved that the two sides were able to reach an agreement and that a strike was averted, but there was always more at stake here than an industry shutdown,” said SAG-AFTRA national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland in a statement. “All workers deserve safe working conditions and fair wages, and this outcome once again demonstrates the power of unity. We are proud of what our fellow union members have achieved.”
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