Negotiators from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees have reached a deal for a new three-year contract, averting a strike that would have shut down film and TV production across the country.
The union sent out a list of bullet points on the deal, including 10-hour “turnaround” times between shifts, 54-hour weekend turnarounds, and 3% wage increases for each of the next three years. The deal also includes increased meal penalties, improved wages and working conditions for streaming productions, and a “living wage” for the lowest-paid workers.
“This is a Hollywood ending,” IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb said in a statement. “Our members stood firm. They’re tough and united… We went toe to toe with some of the richest and most powerful entertainment and tech companies in the world, and we have now reached an agreement with the AMPTP that meets our members’ needs.”
Another union leader called the deal “a greater gain than we’ve made in the history of negotiation.”
The 54-hour weekend is a significant win for the union, and is intended to eliminate “Fraturdays,” in which productions would schedule late-Friday shifts that would go until early Saturday morning. The contract still allows productions to call six-day work weeks, in which case the “weekend” turnaround would be 32 hours.
Further details on the agreement — such as a proposed increase in hours to qualify for the pension plan, and a provision for streaming residuals to shore up the pension and health plan — were not immediately disclosed. Two contracts are up for negotiation — the Basic Agreement, which covers the 13 “Hollywood” locals, and the Area Standards Agreement, which covers another 23 locals around the country. Negotiations have not yet concluded on the Area Standards Agreement, though its provisions tend to track closely with the Basic Agreement.
“Everything achieved was because you, the members, stood up and gave us the power to change the course of these negotiations,” the union told members in an email. “Our solidarity, at both the leadership and rank and file level, was the primary reason that no local was left behind and every priority was addressed.”
The contract must still be ratified by the membership, but it appears that the union will not be calling the first nationwide strike in its 128-year history. One local sent a message to members advising that, “If you are booked on Monday, you should report to work as usual.”
Talks went past 10 p.m. on Friday as the union leadership and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, led by Carol Lombardini, worked out the details affecting some 60,000 film workers, including camera operators, grips, sound technicians, and makeup artists.
Loeb had set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday if a deal could not be reached. The union had been preparing to put up picket lines at 21 locations — including Disney, Warner Bros., Universal Studios, Amazon and Netflix — starting at 6 a.m. on Monday morning.
The leadership will have to sell the agreement to the members, who voted overwhelmingly on Oct. 1-3 to authorize a strike, with nearly 99 percent in favor. The ratification vote likely will not come for several weeks, at minimum, if not a couple of months.
“Your strike authorization vote, your preparation for a strike and your willingness to risk your livelihood to fight for yourselves and each other has profoundly changed our union,” the union told members in the email.
Union negotiators, led by Loeb and Vice President Michael F. Miller Jr., have been negotiating via Zoom with the AMPTP nearly every day since Oct. 5. Many of the rank-and-file members had grown anxious about the deliberate pace of negotiations, and called on Loeb to order a strike. One business agent advised members that he shared their frustration, but that that it was “a tricky and delicate process.”
“You gave us the mandate to obtain the best deal possible,” the business agent wrote. “We will use whatever means necessary to get it but ultimately it will be up to you to decide if it is good enough.”
Production work is notoriously arduous, with work days sometimes running 14 hours or longer. Though long hours have been an issue in prior negotiations, the union has not previously threatened to strike over it. The pandemic — which shut down production for nearly six months — has prompted many members to focus on finally making progress on the issue.
Union negotiators were also seeking higher pay scales for streaming service shows, in addition to the 10-hour turnarounds. Some members, however, have said that the leadership’s demands did not go far enough, and said they would vote to reject any deal that did not include 12-hour turnarounds.