IATSE/AMPTP: Controversial Health Plan Eligibility Rollback Causing Complaints

This December 4th email (see below) sent to International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 members from national president Steven Poster confirms my Thanksgiving weekend details of the previously undisclosed tentative terms in the IATSE/AMPTP deal. And, yes, it included the controversial new rollback that, effective 07/31/2011, the Health Plan will change the standards for continuing eligibility from a requirement of working 300 hours to 400 hours over a six month period. Interestingly, Poster admits that “this 100-hour increase will be difficult for some of our members”. But what he doesn’t mention is the very heated Western Regional Council meeting held the day before to finally discuss details of the IATSE-AMPTP tentative agreement announced back on November 19th. (“Your story had already spoiled the union weasels’ ‘surprise’,” one insider told me. “It was probably the largest number of board members actually attending in the last few years.”)

And, from the sound of things, there were lots of complaints about that new 400-hour requirement. Could this be a deal-breaker?

Here’s what my sources say took place: Local 600 executive director (“and IATSE-millionaire-cheerleader”) Bruce Doering discussed the agreement details; talked about “where the business is” and how bad the economy/business is and bashed SAG; spoke of increases in health costs and went over all his handouts about health and pension costs vs revenues and the expected deficit in the Health Plan; as well as boasted that the union was successful in preventing the AMPTP from requiring IATSE members to co-pay the cost of health care. “But that’s only wonderful for the two dozen members who will still be able to qualify,” one insider explained to me.

I’m told that, at the meeting, many members questioned the 400 hour eligibility increase to qualify for health insurance. Doering claimed the AMPTP asked for an increase to 600 hours, but IATSE refused so the bank of hours remains at 450. But the “Summary of the Basic Agreement between IATSE and AMPTP” Local 600 handout states on Page 2: “Eligibility requirement increased from 300 to 400 hours, effective August 2011.  Because the Bank of Hours remains at a maximum of 450 hours, and Local 600 members on average have 409 hours in their ‘banks’, members earning 300 hours should be able to qualify through August of 2013.  (Local 600 will use this period of time to convince members to call in their non-union jobs so that we can utilize our organizing resources to help them qualify for health benefits).”

Board members tried to question this “409 average bank of hours” claim in the handout. They suggested that this was probably an average of members who actually had a bank of hours. But how many members have no bank of hours? Doering claimed approximately 3,300 members who now qualify have an average of 409 hours in their “banks”. But my insiders don’t believe this figure and don’t think the number is that high. Because his claim means 2,700 of 6,000 total members do not have this mythical “409” average, so 2,700 members didn’t make the 300-hour requirement. Each member’s hours (or lack of) will vary. “It’s not all members like they’re trying to make it seem,” one of my sources complained. “Local 600 spin is that members with an ‘average’ 409 hours in the bank could use 100 of those hours, in addition to their regular 300 hours, every six-month qualifying period to make the 400 hour total. This mythical ‘average’ bank of hours would theoretically get these individuals to August 2013 (four six-month periods August 2011 – August 2013). This presumes those individuals continue to earn the base 300 hours every six-months. If they don’t, and if work slows down, then they use their bank of hours sooner. Those who don’t make 300 hours now have the bar raised even further out of reach.” Some board members suggested a tiered plan would be fairer to more members.

Then Steven Poster spoke via phone — “saying how we’ll have to work together to organize more shows, create opportunities, call in jobs, blah, blah, blah, to help members get hours to qualify”, one source recalled. “Now the punch line. Poster spoke all of the above union-brotherhood-bullshit from his Vancouver, BC hotel room where he’s currently filming Cats and Dogs 2. He has few if any Local 600 members on his main unit camera crew and is instead working with IATSE Local 669. Mr. Poster did not attend the IATSE-AMPTP negotiations. He was busy working on a runaway U.S. production in Canada.”

Here is Poster’s email containing the tentative IATSE-AMPTP terms at the bottom:

From: President Steven Poster
Date: December 4, 2008 8:02:42 PM PST
Subject: Very Important Message from your Guild

International Cinematographers Guild

December 4, 2008

Dear Local 600 Members,

We just got the go-ahead from the IATSE to release the following information, and, as promised, here is a brief summary of the negotiations between the IATSE and AMPTP. We are pleased that the IATSE has successfully completed these negotiations and will be putting this tentative deal out to members for ratification in the near future. If approved by the Membership, this new contract would be in effect for three years from August 1, 2009 through July 31, 2012.

As you will see, one of the accomplishments of these negotiations is that, despite the economic crisis, the Union was successful in preventing the Producers from requiring IATSE members to co-pay the cost of health insurance premiums for themselves or family members.

The agreement provides wage increases of 3% a year on a compounded basis and protects our pension plan in this very uncertain time. Under the contract the producers agreed to substantially increase their contributions into the health plan so that our benefits would remain the strongest in the industry.

The Union also succeeded in securing jurisdiction over New Media. This ground-breaking achievement also creates a new source of funding for our benefits plans, because residuals will be paid on productions released on new Media platforms as described in the summary.

Because of the rapidly increasing cost of healthcare and the deepening recession, the IATSE had to make some painful decisions in order to protect the benefit structure of the active and retiree health plans. Because of these rising costs, the tentative agreement includes some modifications in the plans and an increase in the number of hours a member needs to work in order to qualify for coverage. Beginning in the final year of the contract, this requirement will be increased from 300 to 400 hours over a six month period.

We do know that this 100-hour increase will be difficult for some of our members. This is all the more reason why we need to focus on calling in our jobs, particularly those that are non-IA. We must organize every kind of employment opportunity so that the Union can expand job possibilities for the membership. Your officers and I pledge to make this our major focus to ensure that not one of our brothers or sisters loses coverage.

We have to challenge ourselves to become a better union and to do that we have to do a better job of looking out for our Brothers and Sisters. It’s our responsibility to help members qualify for the health plan. We can do this if we just take the time to check the Membership First service that appears on the Local 600 website and will be greatly improved with the new computer system.

Again, we would like to stress that this deal is tentative and the bullet points below do not represent the entire Agreement. We will provide more details and information as they become available from the IATSE and the AMPTP. Your questions and comments are always welcome.

Steven Poster
National President


Increase current wages 3% per year, in each year of the three-year Agreement. This is the best wage package since the 2000 negotiations.

The IAP percentage contribution of 6% will apply on all hours worked or guaranteed and employers will contribute additional money with each wage increase.


Negotiated 13th and 14th check for current retirees in each year of the Agreement and eliminated the requirement which conditioned payment on a minimum of eight months reserves in the active health plan.

Protected pensions by bargaining for a funding plan that over time will mitigate the effect of the unfavorable investment climate and prevent reductions in our pensions.

Increased employer contributions into plan by $.35 per year for a total of $164 million over the life of the Agreement.

Won additional employer contributions of $.15 per hour when health plan reserves fall below 10 months for actives, and an additional $.15 if reserve levels fall below six months in active plan or eight months in retiree plan or on July 31, 2011, whichever is earlier. These contributions amount to an additional $35 million.

Maintained Bank of Hours maximum at 450.

Modifications in the Plans
Out of Network: Co-insurance paid by participants utilizing out-of-network hospital and professional services will be increased from 30% to 50% while allowances for the usual and customary charges for these services will be reduced from 85% to 70%.

In-Network Hospital and Professional out-of-pocket 10% with annual cap increased from $800 to $1000. For example, if your hospital and doctor’s bills total $45,000, the maximum you have to pay is $1,000 for these bills.

Mandatory mail order maintenance prescription drug usage, with co-pays capped at 2.5 times retail. After two thirty-day prescriptions, participants utilizing maintenance drugs must purchase 90-day supplies of prescription drugs through Medco. By using Medco, you will save money. For example, if you are co-paying $20.00 a month for a prescription drug, under this new provision, rather than pay $60.00 over a three-month period, you would only pay $50.00 over the same period.
Full cost on “Brand” drugs when approved “Generic” is available. Member pays difference. (Medical appeals available).
All brand co-pays increased by $5.
Preferred “Brand” drug co-pay increased by $5. Retail “Generic” no change.
Discontinue coverage for these drugs with over-the-counter equivalent available – PPI’s (Heartburn) and NSA (Antihistamines). (Medical appeals available).
Emergency Room co-pay of $100 (waived if admitted to hospital).
PPO office co-pay increased to $30 for those in the Motion Picture Television Fund (MPTF) area not using MPTF. MPTF to require $5 co-pay for Doctor’s visits.
$100 co-pay for each hospital visit.
HMO (Kaiser, Healthnet, Oxford) office co-pay increased from $0 to $15.
Coordination of Benefits provisions are expanded to include prescription charges.

Eligibility requirement increased from 300 to 400 hours, effective August 2011. Because the Bank of Hours remains at a maximum of 450 hours, and Local 600 members on average have 409 hours in their “banks,” members earning 300 hours should be able to qualify through August of 2013. (Local 600 will use this period of time to convince members to call in their non-union jobs so that we can utilize our organizing resources to help them qualify for health benefits).

Original Programs Made for New Media
IATSE increased its jurisdiction to cover these New Media consistent with the DGA, WGA and AFTRA.

New Media production based on existing shows (derivatives) are covered under the Basic Agreement.

Original programs made for New Media over $15,000 per minute or $300,000 per episode or $500,000 per series are covered. Producers will pay full pension and health contributions.

On covered programs for original New Media rates and terms of employment are freely negotiable, except that union security, grievance and arbitration and no strike/no lockout provisions will apply. No mandatory staffing and full interchange of classifications will also apply.

Re-use of Programs Transmitted in New Media
Residuals: Producers agree to pay residuals on:
· Productions created for traditional markets (feature films and television programs) that are released into New Media platforms.
· Derivative and original New Media programs when released originally on consumer and free ad-supported markets and subsequently released to a consumer pay market for electronic pay-per-view or download to rent after a 26-week period.
· New Media programs released into Supplemental Markets, such as basic cable, pay television and home DVD.

IATSE has the right to inspect unredacted copies of all licenses, distribution and other agreements, etc. pertaining to New Media exploitation on a quarterly basis. The purpose of this section is to allow the IATSE to monitor and evaluate the growth of new Media.

All New Media provisions will “Sunset” at the end of the contract and will be re-negotiated.

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2008/12/iatseamptp-tentative-deal-health-plan-eligibility-rollback-confirmed-7706/