Labor Unions, Studios Dealing Behind the Scenes Over Wages

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Pay increases, benefit plans and new-media terms all are on the table in a labor contract trifecta.

Hollywood workers and employers quietly are in the midst of a busy season of contract negotiations over wages and workplace issues.

The studios, aiming for deals with three key unions, are represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers president Carol Lombardini, who negotiates about 80 industry-wide contracts per triennial cycle.

In talks now is crew union IATSE, whose 130,000 members usually get the same percentage increases as the above-the-line unions’ pattern. But the 2016-17 cycle was an anomaly: There was no pattern, and annual increases ranged from 1 percent to 3 percent for writers, directors and actors. Adding to the complexity for IATSE international president Matt Loeb is a pay-equity push for female-dominated job categories. The current deal ends July 31.

Next up is the Teamsters, representing truck drivers, location managers and casting directors in three separate contracts, the first of which also expires July 31. Secretary-treasurer Steve Dayan will be fighting to get whatever wage increase IATSE achieves. Also an issue, the union states, is obtaining new-media residuals for the pension and health plan. The Teamsters say they’re the only union with­out a share of new-media reuse.

SAG-AFTRA, with national executive director David White leading negotiations, will be seeking to revamp its “Netcode” agreement, which covers wages, residuals and working conditions on non-primetime and unscripted programs. Talks start May 30, a month before contract expiration.

The union declined to comment, but a knowledgeable observer says, “This part of the industry is under real stress.? Among other issues, the parties will likely be dealing with finding new ways to further monetize and expand audience for these programs.”

Diginets — loose networks of secondary broadcast channels — may be one area negotiators will look at, predicts the source, particularly since adjustments to diginet contract language were made in the just-completed above-the-line cycle. Those adjustments changed the payment structure from a so-called fixed residual to a percentage of the license fee, in the process lowering the residual to make diginet exploitation economically feasible.

Summarized another source, “The [Netcode] agreement dates to the Ed Sullivan era and needs to be updated.”