We’ve been reporting on the possibility of a IATSE strike for more than a week, and now it looks like Hollywood’s biggest below-the-line union is indeed going to its membership for a strike authorization vote after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) declined to respond to the union’s latest contract proposal.
As reported to membership on the Basic Agreement site set up for updates:
“Today, the AMPTP informed the IATSE that they do not intend to respond to our comprehensive package proposal presented to them over a week ago. This failure to continue negotiating can only be interpreted one way. They simply will not address the core issues we have repeatedly advocated for from the beginning. As a result, we will now proceed with a nationwide strike authorization vote to demonstrate our commitment to achieving the change that is long overdue in this industry.”
As always, it was signed by IATSE International President Matthew Loeb and reps from the 13 West Coast local unions that are part of IATSE, whose leaders have been negotiating a new three-year agreement for the past few months.
The current contract between the union and management expired on Sept. 10, and some of the major issues include the long hours during production days, sometimes lasting over 14 hours, streaming revenues and others.
In response to said statement, the AMPTP released its own statement, which you can read in full below (courtesy Deadline):
The AMPTP put forth a deal-closing comprehensive proposal that meaningfully addresses the IATSE’s key bargaining issues. When we began negotiations with the IATSE months ago, we discussed the economic realities and the challenges facing the entertainment industry as we work to recover from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The IATSE came to the bargaining table with several priority initiatives including addressing its pension and health plan deficit, longer rest periods and meal breaks, wage increases and outsized minimum rate increases for specific job categories. The AMPTP listened and addressed many of the IATSE demands, including paying the nearly $400 million pension and health plan deficit. The package includes substantial improvements in rest periods, increases in wages and benefits, increases in minimum rates for specific job categories and increases in minimum rates for New Media Productions. While neither party is getting everything it wanted this bargaining cycle, this package recognizes the crucial role IATSE crew members play as we continue to move our industry forward and provide employment for thousands of employees who work on productions.
In choosing to leave the bargaining table to seek a strike authorization vote, the IATSE leadership walked away from a generous comprehensive package. Key components include:
· Economic package for all IATSE members consistent with agreements reached with other unions before the pandemic.
· Improve minimum rates (on average 18% increase) on certain types of New Media productions.
· The IATSE Pension and Health Plan is expected to have a deficit of $400 million over the next three years. In this proposal, the employers will cover the projected deficit of nearly $400 million without imposing premium payments for the no-cost single employee health coverage and without increasing the extremely low cost of dependent health coverage, deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance. Without this infusion of contributions, the reserve level in the Active Health Plan is projected to fall from 17.5 months as of the end of 2020 to 3.1 months as of the end of 2024, and the reserve level in the Retiree Health Plan is projected to fall from 14.4 months as of the end of 2020 to 2.1 months as of the end of 2024. Reserves are critical because they enabled the Directors of the Health Plan to continue coverage for thousands of participants during the pandemic without any additional cost.
· Meaningful improvements in rest periods for those working on first season series television, for post-production personnel assigned to/employed on series television, pilots, feature films and distant location.
· A considerable increase in minimum rates (increases ranging from 10% to 19%) for Assistant Production Office Coordinators, Art Department Coordinators, Writers’ Room Assistants and Script Coordinators.
· Addition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday.
· Agreement on meaningful proposal to address diversity, equity and inclusion issues.
UPDATED: IATSE released an official statement on Tuesday via a press release reiterating its stance:
Throughout the bargaining process, the AMPTP has failed to work with us on addressing the most grievous problems in their workplaces, including:
• Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours.
• Unlivable wages for the lowest paid crafts.
• Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends.
• Workers on certain “new media” streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters.
It is incomprehensible that the AMPTP, an ensemble that includes media mega corporations collectively worth trillions of dollars, claims it cannot provide behind-the scenes crews with basic human necessities like adequate sleep, meal breaks, and living wages. Worse, management does not appear to even recognize our core issues as problems that exist in the first place.
These issues are real for the workers in our industry, and change is long overdue. However, the explosion of streaming combined with the pandemic has elevated and aggravated working conditions, bringing 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers covered by these contracts to a breaking point. We risked our health and safety all year, working through the Pandemic to ensure that our business emerged intact. Now, we cannot and will not accept a deal that leaves us with an unsustainable outcome.
In response to the AMPTP’s tactics, IATSE members are mobilizing in preparation of a nationwide strike authorization vote to demonstrate our commitment to achieving the change that is long overdue in this industry.”
The IATSE vote, which is not a vote to strike but to allow negotiators to use the option of a strike in their negotiations, would strengthen the union negotiators’ standing. IATSE plans to Email its members on Oct. 1 with the instructions to vote electronically with the results announced on Oct. 4. 75% of the voting members in the 13 locals would have to vote “yes” in order for that union’s delegates to support the authorization, and that vote would then have to be approved by a majority of delegates across all locals.
The 13 locals represent 60,000 members, including grips, hair stylists, makeup artists, boom operators, editors, and many other entertainment crafts. Locals 600, 700 and 800, which represent the camera operators, editors and art directors, are national unions, so a strike by those union members would affect production nationwide. The other 10 unions are limited to the Los Angeles area.
Although the deadline to ratify a three-year basic agreement has passed, negotiations have continued, but AMPTP refusing to respond to IATSE’s latest offer has raised the stakes, leading to the union taking a more aggressive stance in negotiations.
If an industry wide strike does take place against film and television production, it would be the first time it has happened in the union’s long history.