IATSE, AMPTP Ratify Deal

The deal provides 2% annual wage increases but institutes first-ever health insurance premiums for dependent coverage.

IATSE members have ratified the three-year deal reached in April with the AMPTP, the union announced Tuesday. The move was expected -- the deal had been unanimously endorsed by the union’s negotiating committee -- though some opposition had emerged. Ratification is conducted on a local-by-local basis (each local is located in Los Angeles and corresponds to a different work category). Vote totals were not made public.

The new agreement runs through July 31, 2015. Key terms include 2 percent annual wage increases and preservation of health benefits, achieved by compromise from each side.

For the first time, the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan will charge premiums for members with dependents: $25 a month for one dependent and $50 a month for members with two or more dependents. There’s still no premium required for members without dependents.

Union president Matthew Loeb said, “The AMPTP knew we were going to stand fast on several important points in the negotiations, and this agreement represents a fair and equitable contract for our members.

“This is a strong contract at a time when unions in both the public and private sectors are under fire nationwide. We have protected our members in all the areas we cover and … exceeded standards significantly, especially in health contributions.”

The AMPTP said in a statement, “Ratification of the IATSE Hollywood Basic Agreement will put the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan on track to overcome its funding crisis as well as provide those working under that agreement the same 2 percent annual wage increases as negotiated in all recent industry deals. The new contract is a critical step in keeping feature film and television production in Southern California as a vital part of the regional economy.”

The pension and health plan was facing a funding shortfall that Loeb had estimated at “over $400 million.” Another source, speaking on background, previously gave The Hollywood Reporter a $350 million forecast during the next three years. Both figures were an improvement from the plan’s $500 million estimate nine months ago but still were substantial.

The studios agreed to a $1-an-hour increase in the health plan contribution rate, which he described as a 20 percent increase over the current rate of $5 an hour. Those contributions, which employers pay in addition to wage, are part of the way the pension and health plans are funded.

In addition, some funding (30.5 cents an hour) that employers contribute to one of the retirement plans -- the Individual Account Plan -- will be reallocated to the health plan. The effect of this on the IAP could not immediately be determined.

The deal also includes a “studio zone” expansion sought by producers, matching changes made by other unions. Certain union terms are lower in the Los Angeles studio zone, which is a 30-mile circle centered at the intersection of Beverly and La Cienega boulevards, plus certain other territory such as the old Columbia and Disney ranches. The most recent SAG/AFTRA deal, negotiated in fall 2010, added a number of additional outlying areas as well: Agua Dulce, Castaic (including Lake Castaic), Leo Carrillo State Beach, Moorpark, Ontario International Airport, Piru and Pomona (including the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds).

Terms for productions made for home video will be budget based, and IATSE confirmed what it has called its “long-standing practice of promoting basic cable TV production in Los Angeles.”

Even with the new premiums, the MPI Health Plan is unusually robust: For instance, under the Blue Shield option, there are no deductibles, low co-pays ($5 a visit in some cases), 100 percent coverage of some doctor visits, 90 percent coverage of hospital visits and a $1,000-a-person annual maximum for out-of-pocket costs. None of the above-the-line union or guild plans is this robust, nor are non-union health plans generally anywhere near this vigorous.

The plan was even better prior to Aug. 1, 2009. The plan trustees can change these details at any time.

Teamsters truck drivers and four other basic crafts unions reached a tentative deal with the AMPTP last week. That deal tracks the IATSE deal in terms of wage increases and additional funding of the union health plan. It will go out for ratification on a timetable that has yet to be announced.

Another group within the Teamsters, freelance casting directors, reached an agreement last fall ,and another local within IATSE, the Animation Guild, reached a tentative deal last month that is not yet out for ratification by the members of that local.

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Email: jhandel@att.net

Twitter: @jhandel