Mon., Feb. 20, 2006
IATSE faces lenser opposition over pact
Ballots are due back March 7
By DAVE MCNARY
A BITTER BATTLE HAS emerged over the ratification of IATSE's contract
covering 35,000 below-the-line employees at 18 West Coast locals.
Ballots went out over the weekend, accompanied by a three-page cover
letter from Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees president Tom
Short, who touted the advances in the three-year Hollywood Basic
Agreement and warned that a rejection would lead to a strike -- even
though the current contract doesn't expire until August. Ballots are
due back March 7.
But leaders of one of the most powerful locals, the Intl.
Cinematographers Guild, have recommended rejection, mostly due to the
new pact's elimination of a requirement that a camera operator be
hired for union shoots.
Last unanimous "no" vote by the ICG board, which operates as IATSE
Local 600 in repping 5,700 camera crew members and publicists, has
helped fuel opposition, as opponents contend show business isn't in
financial trouble, with complaints over proposed wage increases not
keeping pace with inflation and hikes in health plan co-pays.
Opponents have scheduled a noon rally for Saturday at Crespi High
School in Encino.
Nearly all of Short's letter to members highlights gains such as hikes
of 75¢ per hour in minimum rates in the first year, followed by 3%
hikes in the second and third years; a 25¢-per-hour hike in pension
and health plan contributions; gains in jurisdiction over foley
artists, marine, base camp and balloon lighting; a hike in meal
penalties; and inclusion of direct-to-DVD productions.
Short hasn't responded to questions as to the possibilities of
resuming negotiations with five months left under the current pact or
extending the current contract beyond the Aug. 1 expiration date. But
the IATSE leader, who's headed the union since 1994, would suffer a
blow to his status should IATSE members spurn his recommendation.
Vote's also being closely watched by companies and by Hollywood labor
as an indication of militancy among rank-and-file members --
particularly given last fall's voting by Screen Actors Guild and
Writers Guild of America members to install more aggressive leaders.
SAG's commercials contract expires in October, and the WGA's film-TV
pact runs out in October 2007.
The Hollywood Basic Agreement has never been rejected at the
ratification stage. IATSE negotiators had reached the accord in
December with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers,
reflecting Short's advocacy of reaching agreements long before
contracts expire in the belief that employers are more likely to
include the best possible terms at that point in exchange for
Besides the ICG, no other local exec board formally opposed
IATSE's current deal was ratified in January 2003 by a four-to-one
margin. That contract increased hourly contributions to the pension
and health plans for the first time in 20 years and maintained the
qualification and benefit structure of the health plan; key salary
terms called for a 50¢-per-hour increase in the first year, followed
by a 2.5% rise in the second and 3% in the third.