AMPTP, IA extend pact

Early contract talks between the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers have ended with both sides agreeing to extend the current contract through Dec. 3, four months beyond its Aug. 1 expiration.

Included in the extension are provisions for the producers to increase their current contributions to the health care plan by 50 cents per hour along with undetermined increases to the union’s pension plan.

In exchange, the union has agreed to implement $ 10 million in cost-saving measures on its health care plan, which could result in steeper deductibles, caps on chiropractic care, psychiatric care and possibly tougher eligibility rules.

The extension was opted for, in part, so leaders of the two organizations — IATSE prexy Alfred W. DiTolla and AMPTP president Nick Counter — could sit down today with high-level officials in the Clinton administration to discuss a national health plan.

The worsening health-care crisis, which threatens the well-being of the IATSE’s health plan, has been one of the major sticklers in this early round of talks for a new film and TV contract. Leaders for both sides reached an agreement that no major changes should be made to the plan until they know what is happening on a national scale.

Last September, the producers agreed to advance $ 19 million in residual payments from the supplemental market to the health plan, instead of reviving the 50 cents-per-hour contributions that usually kick in when the plan’s reserves fall below agreed-upon levels.

To keep things somewhat on balance until the end of the year, the AMPTP agreed to the 50 cents increase providing the health plan’s trustees begin cost-saving measures. Currently eligible IATSE members only have to pay a $ 25 deductible per family per six-month period. Among the costliest areas in the plan are chiropractic care, psychotherapy and drug prescriptions. Nearly $ 8 million was paid out on chiropractic care and psychotherapy in 1992.

While the extension calls for no pay raises, union officials predict that there will be a healthy increase in producer contributions to the pension plan once actuarial reports for 1992 are determined. Those increases to the pension plan will be retroactive to Jan. 1.

The union will retain its bank of hours provision, which allows members to carry over hours to help them qualify for the health plan; the producers will retain Article 20, which allows them to contract out non-union work on production and distribution and negative pickups. Both were areas of concern in negotiations.

What both sides agreed to was to break up the next round of contract negotiations into a two-tier system. That means that they will go back to the bargaining table in either September or October to discuss basic cable, movies of the weeks and some TV product.

The remainder of the contract, dealing mostly with film and some TV, will then be negotiated later.

Union officials initially sought to extend the contract for a year beyond its expiration date, looking for increases of up to $ 1 per hour in producer contributions to the health plan over the course of the year.

Yet the producers, ever aware of the harsh economics faced by the TV networks , opted for a shorter extension. They initially proposed extending it from August to October.

The extension to Dec. 3 means talks won’t start until the IATSE holds its national elections in July.

Meanwhile, the videotape contract, which expired Oct. 1, 1992, has also been extended.

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