PREVIOUSLY, August 20 PM: You can be pretty sure most of the Survivor crew will vote to stay on this newly unionized island. The Motion Picture Editors Guild and Mark Burnett’s Island Post Productions have finalized an agreement in principle to unionize postproduction staff on the veteran CBS reality show, a deal that comes after a brief labor action last week. As the IATSE Local 700 sought, the roughly 30 editors and other post staff will receive full health and pension benefits under Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans if they vote to ratify the agreement. The deal, which came together to after less than a day of talks on Friday, will see those benefits retroactive to the start of work on the current 29th cycle of Survivor. The agreement, set down in writing today, now goes to the Survivor post staff for ratification tomorrow, sources tell me.
This latest successful move by Local 700 to unionize unscripted shows saw post staff walk off the job August 13 after the company did not respond to a letter from the guild requesting immediate talks on the desire for full representation. That and the picket line that went up at Island’s Santa Monica HQ appeared to put the expanded September 24 debut of Survivor: San Juan Del Mar in some jeopardy. However, a decision later that day to start talks August 15 saw everyone back to work on August 14 and the show back on schedule. Regardless of how fast this all moved, after getting contracts on NBC’s reboot of Last Comic Standing in April and Discovery Channel‘s Naked & Afraid in November, the unionization of a big reality show like Survivor is a big deal for the 7,300-member strong guild which struggled to get traction in the unscripted realm.
As for specifics, while editors’ wages never were an issue in this dispute, assistants and loggers will see pay increases. Overall, the work schedule and compensation for all post staff will move to an 8-hour day and 40-hour week. Before, editors’ individual contracts had been on a day rate, regardless of hours worked or if they worked a weekday or weekend day. The tentative agreement transforms that into an 8-hour day, 5-day week. Overtime of time-and-a-half will go into effect after eight hours worked, as is standard in union shops. It goes into double time after 12 hours worked.
Flanked by two other guild directors, National Executive Director Ron Kutak led the negotiations for Local 700. The talks were described to me as respectful, to the point and conscious of the context of the long relationship many on the post crew have had with the show over its 14-year history. Lawyer Adam Levin of Santa Monica firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp ran things for Island Post Productions’ side with the company’s John Heard and a couple of other representatives of the Burnett-owned entity.