By Don McIntosh
National contract negotiations between TV and film producers and the union IATSE are near impasse, and members are expected to take a strike vote any day.
The talks cover a pair of national contracts that set wages and conditions for 60,000 behind-the-scenes production workers in more than 30 specialties, from set designers and prop makers to gaffers and set painters. The contracts expired July 31, and were extended to Sept. 10 by mutual agreement. But talks broke down Sept. 3 and have not resumed, and no further negotiations were scheduled as of when this issue went to press.
IATSE Local 488 southern business agent cdavid cottrill, a member of the national bargaining team, says a key reason no agreement has been reached is that the employer group has refused to address concerns about overwork and lack of breaks.
In union bargaining, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers represents traditional Hollywood studios as well as streaming film and tv producers like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, HBO, and Paramount+. Work is booming in the industry, with studios racing to deliver new content to hungry audiences. But IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts) says productions are subjecting union crew members to incredibly long workdays without any break for a meal, and insufficient time between shifts.
The union is also pressing for better pay on productions destined for streaming. “New media” modes like streaming aren’t so new any more, and are arguably the dominant way people consume television and movies now. That erodes the justification in previous contracts that they pay crews less than crews on traditional TV and film productions.
If a strike happens, it would shut down three current Portland-area productions by Paramount+, HBO, and Amazon Prime. A work stoppage by the roughly 150 IATSE Local 488 members on those projects would also idle about 150 members of SAG/AFTRA, the Directors Guild, and the Teamsters.
“Our goal is to get back to the negotiating table,” cottrill told the Labor Press.
REQUEST FOR SOLIDARITY: IATSE is asking supporters to sign an online petition asking the studios to reach a fair deal. Close to 100,000 have signed so far.