by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- A Hollywood trade union of film and television crews said it had reached a tentative agreement with a powerful alliance of producers and employers, averting a crippling strike.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) said Sunday that it had reached a tentative agreement for new film and TV contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents Hollywood film and television production companies.
This tentative agreement would avert a potential strike on Monday that could have crippled the U.S. entertainment industry just when it is struggling back from the disastrous effects of the pandemic.
"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," said IATSE International President Matthew Loeb.
The IATSE is a labor union made up of 366 local unions. Founded in the United States in 1893, it represents over 150,000 off-camera/backstage technicians, make-up artists, and others in the United States and Canada.
The AMPTP is a powerful entertainment association that represents producers and major employers in television, film and online media, including such heavyweights as, Walt Disney Studios, Sony, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, Netflix, Amazon, and Apple.
No film, no television show, no theater play or concert can be run without IATSE crewmembers who work behind-the-scenes to make it all possible.
"IATSE members are truly the backbone of the entertainment industry," award-winning producer, Jeff Most, told Xinhua Monday.
"Like all film professionals around the world, they are some of the hardest working people in any business. They routinely face long hours, short weekends and grueling conditions and deserve to be treated with respect, dealt with fairly and have their voices heard," he added.
About 98 percent of the IATSE members had previously voted to launch a nationwide strike on Monday for the first time in its 128 year history. Hollywood's powerful guilds, the Screen Actors-AFTRA Guild and the Directors Guild of America, both said they would support any IATSE strike action.
IATSE leadership said it was incomprehensible that the AMPTP, an industry group that includes mega-corporations collectively worth trillions of dollars, claims it cannot provide behind-the-scenes crews with basic human necessities like adequate sleep, meal breaks, and living wages.
"We risked our health and safety all year, working through the Pandemic to ensure that our business (the entertainment industry) emerged intact. Now, we cannot and will not accept a deal that leaves us with an unsustainable outcome," warned Loeb.
After the strike vote passed, Loeb had warned the AMPTP. "If (producers) want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer," he said. "The ball is in their court."
Evidently, the union's readiness to strike and Loeb's comments had the desired impact, leading to productive negotiations between the union and the AMPTP that fairly addressed the unions top concerns.
Now after months of negotiating a new Producer-IATSE Basic Agreement and a new Theatrical and Television Motion Picture Area Standards Agreement, the AMPTP announced it did not intend to submit a counteroffer to IATSE's last proposal, signaling their willingness to accept it.
The IATSE strike vote had been passed to address serious issues concerning compensation, work hours and work safety -- issues that had been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive increase in production being done by profitable streaming companies which the union said were not paying their fair share.
The new Agreement addressed most of those issues, and will include a living wage for the lowest-paid earners, improved wages and working conditions for crews on streaming productions, retroactive wage increases of 3 percent a year, daily rest periods of 10 hours, weekend rest periods of 54 hours, among others.
"Everything achieved was because you, the members, stood up and gave us the power to change the course of these negotiations," the union said in a statement to members.
Though some union members complained that not all the issues had been fully addressed, most of them seemed pleased with the outcome and a ratification vote is likely to be passed by them.
Vice President and Motion Picture Director for the IATSE Mike Miller believed that the agreement constitutes a win-win for both union members and employers.
"This settlement allows pre-production, production and post-production to continue without interruption," Miller said in the statement. "Workers should have improved morale and be more alert. Health and safety standards have been upgraded." Enditem