Struggling to close their contract battle before the holidays, the IATSE and the producers bargained into the early hours Saturday, but once more left the table without a pact.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers could only agree to disagree when they called off the talks at 2 a.m. Saturday, reportedly over wage issues of golden time and retroactive pay.
IA prexy Al DiTolla and AMPTP chief Nicholas Counter reluctantly skedded Jan. 3 as the next contract session.
“We all wanted peace of mind for the holidays. That was the reason for pushing on,” said IATSE West Coast chief Harry Floyd. “But it soon became evident that we couldn’t conclude it.”
The delay means the IA will probably return to the table armed with the strike consent vote that DiTolla demandedwhen talks broke down after the Dec. 3 marathon session.
IATSE leaders are confident that the vote, expected by Dec. 30, will give them authorization to call a work stoppage, if necessary. “All indications are that the members are fully behind us to support us,” Floyd said. “They realize that the leaders and business agents are responsible people and certainly won’t take the authorization of a strike lightly.”
Floyd downplayed the possibility of a strike because the parties are so close to a deal. “I don’t believe that the issues are large enough for either side to cause a labor dispute right now,” he said. “I would say there’s not enough there for them to lock us out and there’s not enough there for us to walk out. It’s just a matter of coming to terms on a few items.”
Those items that sent everyone home on Saturday reportedly involved issues of golden time and retroactive pay.
Golden time allows for crew members to be paid double for every hour worked past 12 hours of lapsed time. The AMPTP apparently wants to change that allowance to read “worked hours”; if an employee took a lunch hour, double pay wouldn’t kick in until the 13th hour of work.
As for retroactivity, the unions want any contract agreement to apply retroactively to Aug. 1, 1993, when the original contract was extended. The producers prefer starting fresh in the new year with no back pay raises.
Toward the end of the contract session, DiTolla and Counter reportedly engaged in complicated negotiations, trading proposals over the wage issues.
The final pitch from the producers offered a choice: No retroactivity and no change in the golden time rule, or retroactivity to Aug. 1 and a change in the golden time rules.
The union rejected both.
AMPTP sources said the producers aren’t worried about a strike, but are concerned that contingency plans will have to be maintained for the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, an alliance of maverick locals, including Props Local 44, Electricians Local 728, Sound Local 695, Grips Local 80 and Film Techs Local 683 , planned to meet today to discuss alternatives to the breakdown in talks.
“We’re thinking about doing something else,” said one source. “We might take them on.”