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IA, producers return to talks today

The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees heads back to the bargaining table with producers today, armed with a set of counterproposals that union chiefs think may resolve the bitter contract dispute that led to a walkout last week.

Labor officials would not outline their pitch on the record, but sources said specific items on wage hikes and Article 20, which allows for negative pickups by the studios of indie feature pix, are high on the agenda.

“The fact that the counterproposals were signed unanimously by every business agent of the locals shows there’s unity behind these proposals,” said one union source.

IATSE prexy Al DiTolla ankled talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers at AMPTP’s Ventura Boulevard offices Dec. 4 after an 18 -hour contract session on the last day.

The back-breaking straw apparently was the AMPTP’s request for a two-year contract, six months of whose term had already lapsed. The IA wanted a new three-year contract.

DiTolla called immediately for a strike authorization vote of the union’s 24, 000 Hollywood members; ballots are due Dec. 29 and will take a few days to tabulate.

Many insiders thought the union prexy would wait until he had the rank-and-file OK for a strike to return to the bargaining table. Some sources said a resolution could come as early as Friday afternoon.

The health plan, which had been the biggest problem issue, has mostly been resolved, sources said. The hot issue now will be the wage increases, which traditionally have been 4% per year for each of the three years in the contract. The AMPTP has offered no increase the first year and 2% after that, which the union has declared unacceptable.

Union insiders said the other main point will be tightening language of Article 20 in the contract. The IA contends that studios do more than simply buy finished “negative” prints; they often fund and monitor the productions.

IA sources said they hope to structure a side agreement regarding Article 20 pickups, similar to one in place with the Directors Guild of America.

Union officials also complained of allegations that the IATSE had no unity among its members regarding the effect a strike would have on the industry.

“Just judging by the number of phone calls we’ve had, we have unity,” said one IA official. “Our (hotline answering) machine blew up after more than 1,800 calls. And we’ve got people calling in support from the DGA and SAG.”

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