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IATSE Sets Schedule Of Simultaneous Talks Between Multiple Locals & Studios As Bargaining Resumes; Cinematographers & Art Directors Guild At Table Today

Back at the bargaining table with the studios this week after several days of caucusing, IATSE on Tuesday laid out its plans for the next phase of talks as a contract-expiration date inched closer for a tense Hollywood.

“Following a caucus week, negotiations between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) resumed Monday, with talks entering a new phase where each of IATSE’s 13 West Coast Studio Locals (WCSL) individually negotiate their Locals’ craft specific issues with the studios,” the Matt Loeb-led union said today in its first official missive since talks started up. “This phase of the process is expected to last from March 18 to April 26.”

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The current IATSE contracts expire July 31.

With strike-exhausted executives and cautiously optimistic union brass aware of the very real possibility of another summer of labor actions if talks blow up, the initial negotiations have been low-key but fairly productive, we hear.

After that first week of talks that kicked off March 4 with IATSE, the Hollywood Teamsters and other crafts guilds discussing health and pension benefits, the now formalized strategy is that ” two locals will negotiate simultaneously at any given time.” The point is to make sure all 13 locals have time at the table with the AMPTP on their specific needs.

“On Monday March 18th, the International Cinematographer’s Guild (IATSE Local 600) and the Art Directors Guild (IATSE Local 800) each began their individual negotiations with the studios,” IATSE added today. “The Motion Picture Editors Guild (IATSE Local 700) and IATSE Local 729 are expected to begin their negotiations with the AMPTP later in the week.” More local pairings are anticipated to be announced in the coming days.

“We look forward to coming to an agreement that reflects that truth, and during this process, please remember that our goal is to come to a fair agreement that, in the end, will be supported by our membership,” ICG National Executive Director Alex Tonisson told AMPTP president Carol Lombardini and other studio reps in an opening statement Monday. Portions of the early part of the day was taken up with others members of the bargaining committee sharing “their personal experiences relevant to the specific proposals,” detailed an ICG update sent out to the Local’s 9,000-strong membership last night.

As the AMPTP conducts those talks with the locals, IATSE national leadership will focus on the restart of negotiations for the Hollywood Basic Agreement General Negotiations and the start of the IATSE-AMPTP Area Standards Agreement at the end of April. The Basic Agreement covers all 13 of the union’s Hollywood locals, while the Area Standard Agreement covers 26 locals outside of Los Angeles. Overall around 60,000 industry related IATSE members are effected by the contracts in questions. Of course, offered very public onstage support by Jimmy Kimmel at this year’s Oscars, IATSE and the below-the-line guilds like the Lindsay Dougherty and Teamsters Local 399 also have some big buddies in the 1.3 million members of the national Teamsters behind them.

“From where I sit, this is really about security in an industry that is precarious already,” IATSE chief Loeb told Deadline earlier this month just before the first round of talks began on the new three-year agreements. “A strike vote is always possible and I can’t rule it out,” the union leader noted, with a reference to previously statements that he and IATSE aren’t interested at extending the current contract — as has been the case in past talks.

Oscars
Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel acknowledges the show’s crew members during a rousing tribute to below-the-line union workers at the Oscars

Right now, everyone seems to be on their best and most civil behavior in their sit-downs at the AMPTP’s HQ in Sherman Oaks and the IA’s L.A. offices. Still, if last year’s bitter writers and actors strikes taught anyone anything, it’s that in labor situations everything’s in flux until the deal is signed and ratified.

In 2021, after an overwhelming nationwide strike-authorization vote by IATSE members when talks with the AMPTP seemed to crash, the last contracts were ratified by members in a closer-than-usual vote. That vote three years ago resulted in the the L.A. locals reject the agreement in the popular vote.

That’s an outcome Loeb and his team do not want to see this year, especially in the context of last year’s Hot Labor Summer and the contractions the industry is seeing now.

“The work that the Locals did to prepare each of their Negotiating Committees, which included town hall meetings, member surveys, bargaining trainings and one-on-one conversations, is unprecedented,” said IATSE International VP Mike Miller of the lead-up and behind-the-scenes process the leadership and locals have been engaged in for the past several months, even before the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes ended last fall. “The process identified clear priorities and helped develop the proposals that the Locals’ members want addressed by the employers.”

Taking the proposals that were put forth in early March, the AMPTP has yet to respond to the health and pension items that IATSE, Local 399 and other crafts put forth, we hear. However, that doesn’t seem to be a cause of friction, as everyone expects those matters to move back to center stage once talks with the various Locals are closer to concluding.

Katie Campione contributed to this report.

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