EXCLUSIVE: The first talk of a strike against the Hollywood film and TV industry surfaced today in the wake of stalled negotiations for a new IATSE contract covering some 43,000 West Coast below-the-line workers. Bargaining broke off Friday and isn’t scheduled to resume until a week before the July 31 expiration of the current contract.
If IATSE strikes, it would be the first industry-wide walkout in the union’s 125-year history.
“I wish I could say I am hopeful we will reach an acceptable agreement, but based on the direction this has been heading, I am skeptical at this time,” Cathy Repola, executive director of IATSE Editors Guild Local 700, said in a message sent to her members today. “If we are unable to reach agreement, the IA will send out a strike authorization vote.”
Rescuing the union’s ailing pension plan, devising a formula for residuals from programs made for streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu and curbing Hollywood’s brutally long work hours are among the union’s “top priorities.”
As reported earlier today, IATSE Cinematographers Guild Local 600 – one of 13 IATSE locals covered by the contract – told its members that “some progress was made” last week before talks broke off, but there’s still a long way to go to make a deal when bargaining resumes with management’s AMPTP as the deadline approaches.
“The IA and all the Hollywood locals have been pushing on several items that are of paramount importance,” Repola told her members. “The existing residual streams are no longer sufficient to secure the future viability of the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan as they are generated by decreasing secondary markets. We absolutely must replace that loss in revenue with enhanced residuals from streaming releases. The producers thus far have been unwilling to engage in an agreement to do so in an adequate way. We went in asking for the same residuals in new media that the DGA, SAG and the WGA all secured in their last negotiations. The AMPTP has refused to grant those to us and instead proposed a lesser, reduced formula amounting to little, and also excluding the studios from paying any of this.”
She continued: “Another IA proposal to enhance the financial standing of the Plans, includes increasing the employer’s hourly contribution rates. Thus far, that has been met with opposition. The producers want to avert the additional funding by the studios and their affiliated companies, resulting in placing the burden on the smaller employers. This would have a detrimental effect on our employee-shareholder companies and other post-production facilities, and also hurt us in organizing campaigns.”
The union is also opposed to the companies’ proposal to rollback enhanced pension benefits called for in the existing contract. The producers, Repola wrote, “want to change the triggers for the 10% pension increase for (active members) that we negotiated last contract cycle, attempting to take away a significant enhancement to the pension. This is an attempted takeback of something we already fought to achieve in our last negotiations. Not one of these are options we should even consider, as far as I’m concerned.”
The union, she said, also is not satisfied with the companies’ response to the union’s proposals to increase daily turnarounds – the amount of time off between workdays – to 10 hours in Los Angeles. “The AMPTP’s response contained all sorts of restrictions that make it impossible to actually be beneficial to IA members,” Repola wrote. “They also proposed that post-production be excluded from that new 10-hour turnaround if they were to grant it. This has been removed from the table, but now they propose to exclude all of the IA on-call classifications entirely. The proposal also would not apply to pilots or first-season episodic series, which is where members need the relief most. Lastly, they want to lighten the penalty, making it a reduction from the existing eight-hour turnaround penalty.
“All of these matters,” she continued, “are vital for us to achieve in these negotiations. If that doesn’t happen, I don’t see how I will be able or willing to recommend a vote in favor of the contract. I hope that all – or at least a majority – of the IA locals will stay unified on these issues and others important to them. It is all about the will of the memberships and fighting for what the members deserve.
“It is unfortunate that we are in this situation,” Repola wrote, “but I believe the locals united have a great deal of leverage, and we should be willing to collectively use it. If we are unable to reach agreement, the IA will send out a strike authorization vote.”