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Overwhelming Ratification Vote for New IATSE Contract is Expected

April 26, 2012 | By

To build support prior to an upcoming ratification vote, International president Matthew Loeb is trumpeting the virtues of the tentative deal recently reached between IATSE and the studios for a new three-year Basic Agreement that will go into effect Aug. 1 if approved.

“Our goals going into these negotiations have been met,” stated Loeb in a communication to members. The 4-1/2 weeks of talks, which culminated with an agreement late on April 12, “resulted in a fair deal that will provide employment stability, protect our health and pension plans and provide for wage increases in a fragile economy,” he added.

Right now, approval of the contract stretching from Aug. 1, 2012 to July 31, 2015, seems all but a certainty, and likely by an overwhelming margin. “I haven’t heard of any organized opposition to the terms of the contract, which is almost unheard of,” said the head of one of the guilds who declined to be identified. “But it’s not surprising because this deal is a big victory – more than most IATSE members expected – given the $400 million hole we faced on funding the health and pension plans going in.”

Exact language is still being nailed down, and the text of the proposed deal will be sent out to members in a few weeks followed by a ballot. Eligible to vote are some 20,000 cinematographers, production designers, lighting technician and other expert crew members belonging to the 15 Hollywood guilds covered by the umbrella IATSE agreement struck with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

The main elements of the deal:

  • A 2 percent annual wage increase compounded, which amounts to a gain of just over 8 percent by the time the contract ends in 2015. The 2 percent hike is in line with what is considered the “new normal” for basic salary increases for all Hollywood, unions, including deals previously reached with the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild. The 2 percent wage increase is also roughly in line with the current Southern California inflation rate.
  • The big entertainment companies that make up AMPTP have agreed to hike their health plan contribution rate by $1-an-hour, going from $5 to $6 – a 20% increase. Those contributions are a big part of the way the pension and health plans are funded. The rest largely comes from residual payments. The $1 increase, the IA estimates, will result in about $225 million in new and additional payments to the health plan.
  • Enhancements to pension plans should keep the status of the retirement plan in the “green zone,” meaning funding of at least 80 percent, the highest category for safety.

In return, IATSE members will for the first time pay premiums for health care coverage. The Motion Picture Industry Health Plan (MPIHP) will charge members with one dependent $25 a month; and $50 a month for members with two or more dependents. Members without dependents will continue to pay no premiums.

There is also an expansion in the “studio zone,” matching changes made by other unions. Certain union compensation terms are lower in the Los Angeles studio zone. By making it bigger, the lower terms apply to a wider area in the geographic regions surrounding L.A., reducing filming costs.

One of the biggest victories for IATSE was holding the line on changes in work rules that were part of AMPTP’s initial demands, but which were subsequently withdrawn. “We were able to prevent the employers from changing any of the conditions of the Local Union agreements,” states a FAQ on the tentative contract posted the IA’s website. “This means no changes to staffing, no reductions to overtime or meal penalties or any other working conditions in the Local contracts.”

While the 2 percent annual wage increases will just keep up with inflation, provided it doesn’t ratchet higher, the IA points out that the extra $1 an hour that will be paid by the studios into the MPIHP more than doubles that gain. It is noted that for a member making $33 per hour, that equals an additional 3 percent on top of the wage increase, or a total of 5 percent.

And even with the introduction of premium payments for health care for members with dependents of $75 to $150 per quarter, IATSE members will be putting up far less than most of their brethren in other guilds. According to the FAQ:

  • SAG premiums are $273-$477 per quarter for single, $315-$477 for Plus 1 and $342-$519 for a family.
  • AFTRA’s premium is $381 per quarter for single, $668-$2612 for Plus 1 and $668-$4249 for a family.
  • The DGA quarterly premium is $195 for Plus 1 and $300 for a family.
  • The WGA quarterly premium is $150 for Plus 1 and $150 for a family.

For more information, visit: http://www.iatse-intl.org/news/pr_2012BasicAgreement-FAQ.pdf

Do you think the new Basic Agreement between IATSE and AMPTP is a fair deal?

  • No (65%, 260 Votes)
  • Yes (24%, 95 Votes)
  • Undecided (11%, 46 Votes)

Total Voters: 401

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