EXCLUSIVE: Stalled negotiations for a new IATSE film and TV contract have created a bargaining table logjam, delaying the start of contract talks between management’s AMPTP and Teamsters Local 399 and the Basic Crafts unions.
The IATSE and Teamsters contracts, which are negotiated separately, are set to expire on July 31. The AMPTP had expected to wrap up the IATSE talks in time to hammer out a deal with the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts, but the on-again/off-again IATSE talks have put the other talks on hold.
The key sticking point in the IATSE talks has been a rescue plan for the union’s pension plan, which is fast approaching “critical status.” As of January 1, 2017, it was only 67.4% funded, and under federal law, a pension plan is considered to have reached “critical status” if it falls below 65% funded. And that’s a problem for the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts, as well, because they’re covered by the same pension plan.
The companies say they will keep the plan funded, but there’s a dispute over how best to do that. IATSE wants to devise a formula for residuals from programs made for streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to help fund the plan.
The IATSE talks started in early April, broke off three weeks later, and then resumed on June 26, only to break off again four days later. Those talks now are scheduled to begin again just a few days before the July 31 expiration date of the current contract.
All this, Teamsters Local 399 said in a recent communique with its members, has delayed the start of negotiations for its “Black Book” contract covering studio drivers. “The AMPTP and the IATSE have been unable to conclude their negotiations and are not expected to resume until later in July,” the union said. As a result, the dates that were originally scheduled for ‘Black Book’ and location manager negotiations will need to be rescheduled. We will update the membership once we have scheduled new dates for collective bargaining.”
The IATSE never has launched an industry-wide strike against the film and TV business, but strike talk has begun to swirl around the stalled negotiations. “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 recent message sent to her members. “If we are unable to reach agreement, the IA will send out a strike authorization vote.”
A strike authorization vote, if it comes to that, would not necessarily mean that there’s going to be a strike – only that IATSE leaders would be given the authority to call one if a deal can’t be reached. But an IATSE strike authorization vote could push the start of the Teamsters and Basic Crafts talks back even further still.