IATSE Talks Go Late, but Benefit Plans Remain Sticking Point

Negotiations on a new IATSE contract went deep into the night on Wednesday, but the two sides were unable to bridge their differences and wrapped without a deal.

More talks are expected to be added to the schedule, possibly as soon as late next week.

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The two sides are said to have reached a compromise on several significant issues including, most notably, artificial intelligence. But the talks have yet to produce an agreement on overall wage increases or on how to close a $670 million shortfall in the health and pension plans over the next three years.

In a message to members on Thursday morning, IATSE struck an optimistic note, and emphasized that talks remain ongoing.

“Thus far negotiations have largely been productive, with the Basic Negotiating Committee and the studios reaching consensus on a number of issues,” the union said.

Matt Loeb, the international president, reiterated that he is “hopeful that our work will result in a tentative agreement that members will want to ratify.”

The benefit plans have taken a double blow from the pandemic and the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, both of which shuttered most production for half a year. The plans are largely funded by hourly contributions, which slowed to a trickle during the shutdowns.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is seeking a new residual from made-for-streaming shows, which would supplement the current funding stream and provide some stability in the event of future shutdowns.

The union has been bargaining for the last three months on a new Basic Agreement and the accompanying Area Standards Agreement. The initial schedule for the Basic Agreement has already been extended once, with three extra days of talks added this week. Additional time will also be needed to wrap up the Area Standards Agreement.

The two contracts cover about 70,000 workers nationwide, including grips, set dressers, makeup artists and cinematographers, among many others.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will have to juggle its schedule, as the Basic Crafts unions — including the Teamsters — are set to begin bargaining on their contract next Monday.

The IATSE and Basic Crafts contracts all expire on July 31, and each of the unions has pledged not to grant extensions — which have been common in previous cycles.

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