5 unions may break from AMPTP talks

A coalition of five maverick IATSE locals is mad as hell about the ongoing contract talks with the producers’ alliance, and they aren’t going to … well, you know.

Union sources said the business agents from Props Local 44, Grips Local 80, Film Techs Local 683, Sound Techs Local 695 and Electricians Local 728 convened in private Monday, possibly to hammer out their own set of proposals that they plan to pitch to the producers at the next bargaining session Jan. 3.

Contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers ended acrimoniously Saturday, just hours before many in the bargaining room felt a settlement was due. The breakdown reportedly came over issues of golden time and retroactive pay for crew workers.

Union and AMPTP sources agree that they are so close to a settlement that the possibility of an industrywide strike of 24,000 IATSE members in Hollywood has become remote.

Nonetheless, Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees prexy Al DiTolla has called for a strike authorization vote, likely to be ratified by the rank and file by Dec. 30.

When DiTolla returns to the table with AMPTP topper Nicholas Counter, any threat of walkout will carry more weight, and the leaders from the five locals are counting on that.

Concessions irksome

Biz agents in the gang of five kept mum on Monday about the specifics of any proposals they might pitch, but sources said most were angry with the numerous concessions they believed the AMPTP forced on the union.

“Anybody in the (negotiating) room should be pissed off,” said one union source. “You can only go to the well so often and pretty soon it’s going to come up dry. There gets to be a time where you have to draw the line and say enough is enough.”

While some industry insiders thought the five locals might be planning a strike of their own combined membership of more than 10,000, one biz agent in the group said that could never happen.

“We can’t strike … But we can turn up the heat in other places,” the source said.

If the gang of five’s contract proposals are radically different from the concessions already agreed upon — and if the ideas take hold with union membership — it may throw a wrench into the delicate framework of a contract that DiTolla and Counter have already forged.

Asked if the proposals could undermine the areas of agreement achieved so far , or knock them out completely, one source said: “That’s a possibility. It could , but that depends. Maybe the producers will come around too. Who knows what will happen.”

IATSE officials could not be reached for comment on the meeting.

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