'Survivor' Editors Go on Strike for Union Contract

Michael Yarish/CBS


The postproduction crew is seeking an agreement with health and retirement benefits

The Survivor postproduction crew has struck Mark Burnett’s Island Post Productions Inc., seeking a union contract, the Motion Picture Editors Guild announced Wednesday. At the time of the work stoppage, postproduction work was underway on the 90-minute premiere of Season 29 of the series, which has been scheduled to air on Sept. 24.

The action came a day after the Emmy-nominated team officially notified its employer of the intent to obtain a union contract with health and retirement benefits.

“This show has no hidden immunity idol,” said A.J. Catoline, a reality television editor and member of the guild’s board of directors. “It needs to bring its employment practices in line with the industry standards observed by other such shows, including CBS’ Big Brother and Mark Burnett’s The Voice. Its post crew deserves the benefits and security of a union contract.”

In recent years, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the guild have won union contracts for crews working in unscripted television. The crew of Naked and Afraid, nominated this year for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Picture Editing for Reality Programming, obtained an IATSE contract after a six-day work stoppage of the editorial crew last November.

For each episode of Survivor, the postproduction crew has the responsibility of distilling approximately 250 hours of raw footage down to one hour of onscreen programming. Over the years, the crew’s work has netted a total of 16 Emmy nominations in the category of Outstanding Picture Editing for a Reality Series, including a nomination for the 2014 Creative Arts Emmy Awards taking place this Saturday.

“This wildly successful program has helped to define the genre of reality television, and editors play a critical role in shaping the show,” said guild president Alan Heim. “They seek the same health benefits, pensions and basic protections that their counterparts elsewhere in the industry have long enjoyed. After 28 successful seasons and 16 Emmy nominations, that doesn’t seem too much to ask.”

CBS declined to comment and representatives for Burnett’s company did not immediately respond.

The Motion Picture Editors Guild is Local 700 of the IATSE. Established in 1937, the guild represents more than 7,300 postproduction professionals working nationwide in television, features and new media.

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