IATSE and management’s AMPTP have agreed to push back next week’s scheduled resumption of bargaining for a new film and TV contract until mid-August to allow time for the producers and Hollywood’s unions to work out a new agreement on modifications to the industry’s Covid-19 return-to-work protocols.
Bargaining for a new IATSE contract, which broke off on June 11 after four weeks of talks, had been set to resume Tuesday but have now been tentatively rescheduled for August 17. The union’s current contract expires on July 31, so any deal that comes after that would be retroactive to that date.
The industry’s return-to-work protocols had been set to expire on June 30, but were extended indefinitely on Wednesday after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and Hollywood’s production unions – IATSE, SAG-AFTRA, the DGA, the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts – agreed that they needed more time “to negotiate Covid-19 safety agreement modifications.”
The return-to-work protocols were established in September in an agreement between the unions and Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. In a joint statement this week, labor and management said that the “current agreement will remain in effect” until a new agreement is reached.
Rather than trying to engage simultaneously in its own negotiations for a new contract and in multi-union talks for modifications to the return-to-work protocols, IATSE decided to postpone the contract talks until after an agreement has been reached on any new Covid-19 rules.
“As you know, we are continuing conversations on the return-to-work agreement,” IATSE local leaders told their members today via email. “Our goal is to keep the safest working conditions and ensure the well-being of our members and their families. With the growing spread of the Covid Delta variant, affecting even those who are fully vaccinated, we are holding firm with our return-to-work conditions and we do not want to compromise on our positions. The IATSE, DGA, SAG-AFTRA, Teamsters, and the Basic Crafts will be resuming return-to-work negotiations next week.
“As a result, Basic Agreement negotiations will be postponed from next week until August,” they added. “Since we will be extended beyond the contract, we will be negotiating retroactive pay when we ratify; including retroactive benefits. All will be covered under a workable time frame for the extension. We have tentatively agreed to resume negotiations on August 17. In the meantime, we want to encourage you to keep yourself informed and engaged. We will update you as we continue to get more information.”
Leaders of the Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, sent a similar message to their members:
“Due to the immediate need to conclude negotiations for a further extension of the Return to Work (RTW) Protocols, the IATSE and the AMPTP have mutually agreed to extend the Basic Agreement and resume negotiations in August, rather than on July 6 as planned. The specific terms of the extension of the Basic agreement are being worked out as we speak. We have tentatively agreed to resume bargaining on Tuesday, August 17.
“The ongoing negotiations over the RTW Protocols, which involve all of the Guilds and Unions, are now scheduled to continue next week. The RTW discussions must be concluded first, as that agreement expired on June 30, and the evolution of the Covid crisis requires careful consideration in order to keep our industry thriving and our members healthy. We cannot place enough emphasis on the safety and security of our members and their families. The multi-union coalition, consisting of the IATSE, DGA, SAG-AFTRA, Teamsters, and the Basic Crafts, is unified in its determination to take the time necessary to get this right, and all have agreed to resume the RTW negotiations next week.
“Meanwhile, Local 600 will continue to use this time to talk to members, build support and capacity around our key issues and work in solidarity with the other locals to move our shared agenda forward. We urge our bargaining partners at the studios to make good use of the next six weeks to reflect on our proposals and come to the simple conclusion that fair wages that recognize the value our members bring, well-funded and sustainable benefits for our members and their families, and working conditions that promote safety and health, including meal breaks and rest periods – are both reasonable and long overdue. The craftspeople who make up the foundation of this industry deserve nothing less. Local 600 remains committed to achieving these goals.”
The delayed contract talks cover IATSE’s 13 production locals in Hollywood, including three with national jurisdictions: Cinematographers Guild, Editors Guild Local 700 and Art Directors Guild Local 800. In a recent joint statement, leaders of the 13 locals said that they “stand together in our fight for sustainable pension and health benefits, reasonable rest, improved working conditions, and livable wages. These basic worker rights are the cornerstone of the labor movement, and we all are committed to fighting for them in order to create a more humane and equitable workplace.”
Gains the union is seeking include more residuals from streaming shows; longer rest periods; and increased funding for the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plan, which had been approaching “critical status” before the pandemic. Union leaders have said that so far, the talks had made “very little progress” on key economic issues and that the two sides “remain far apart in the most important areas.”
On June 15, shortly after the negotiations recessed, the 13 local leaders said in a joint statement: “We continue to be told that the industry cannot change the way it does business. What we have learned over the last year is that our industry can put the economic welfare, health, and safety of workers first and continue to thrive. We stand in solidarity and remain committed to protecting the health and security of our members and their families.”
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