EXCLUSIVE: Now that IATSE has reached a tentative agreement on terms for a new film and TV contract, it’s now the turn of Teamsters Local 399 and the Basic Crafts unions to try to hammer out a new deal with management’s AMPTP. Those negotiations had been delayed because the on-again-off-again IATSE talks had taken longer than expected.
“We will be bargaining in the coming weeks this month,” Local 399 secretary-treasurer Steve Dayan told Deadline, noting that the union’s current contract, which had been set to expire July 31, has been extended until a new agreement can be reached. The Basic Crafts unions include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 40, Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 78, Studio Utility Employees Local 724, and Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 755.
If so-called “pattern bargaining” holds, the Teamsters and Basic Crafts will be expected to accept a deal similar to the one IATSE agreed to. That deal, which IATSE president Matt Loeb has called a “huge victory,” includes what he says will be an additional $153 million in employer contributions to the union’s health plan, and a new funding mechanism for theatrical-length streaming content that will result in “additional monies for our pension plan.”
IATSE, Teamsters Local 399 and the Basic Crafts share the same pension and health plans, and rescuing the under-funded pension plan was a major bone of contention in the IATSE talks. The pension plan – with assets of $3.8 billion – was only 67.4% funded to meet future obligations as of January 1, 2017; under federal law, a pension plan is considered to have reached “critical status” if it falls below 65%. It was more than 80% funded only two years earlier.
Leaders of 12 of IATSE’s 13 West Coast studio locals are recommending membership ratification of the new contract, but leaders of Editors Guild Local 700 are vehemently opposed.
The Editors Guild’s board of directors has voted unanimously to recommend rejection of the pact, and Cathy Repola, the guild’s executive director, has called the deal “a totally unnecessary” and “unacceptable agreement.” Funding of the pension plan, she told her members, “was addressed to some extent, but in a way that is short-sighted and will undoubtedly leave us fighting in the next round of negotiations and has the studios putting in very little money over the next cycle. There was no additional hourly pension contribution negotiated. A new ‘New Media Residual’ is included, but it is not what the other guilds (DGA, WGA, SAG-AFTRA) received, and it is impossible to put a value on it.”
She’s also unhappy that her members only got nine hours of rest between shifts, while the other locals are all getting ten hours. “Some people are saying Local 700 is mad because we got one hour less turnaround than everyone else,” she posted. “The truth is, we are not mad. We think it was wrong. But that speaks to the commitment we all made, the IA and the locals, to not let any one local get singled out.”
That assessment put her at odds with Steven Poster, president of Cinematographers Guild Local 600, who in urging ratification told his members that “No local got everything they wanted, but no local was forced to give anything up and no local was left behind. That was a breakthrough.”
A grassroots effort is underway to reject the contract and send the parties back to the bargaining table, but Leslie Simon, business rep of IATSE Script Supervisors Local 871, has cautioned that a “no” vote might not prompt more talks, but a strike.
“I understand that there is a lot of chatter on social media about how bad this agreement is. Whether we achieved enough to avoid a strike, and to keep you all working, is ultimately your decision,” she told her members. “When we send out the ratification vote, I urge you to vote yes to approve this deal. You should not vote against this deal unless you are ready to strike, and believe that the vast majority of your colleagues are ready to do the same. This is not a step that you should take lightly.”
Like Repola, Simon did not join Loeb and the other 11 local leaders in signing a letter urging membership ratification, which now seems all but certain. That will set the table for the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts in their upcoming negotiations.