IATSE hammers out agreement on ‘Lies’

The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees has reached an agreement in principle on a below-the-line contract for James Cameron’s new big-budget action film, “True Lies.”

The agreement, which will begin Aug. 8 (although health and welfare benefits will be retroactive to July 26), comes with the film already several weeks into pre-production, during which time construction crews have been working at non-union rates.

It also points to a problem that has become endemic in Hollywood, namely that harsh economic times have put a lot of construction people out of work. The end result is that many production companies are taking advantage of the situation and hiring both union and non-union pre-production help for lower pay.

What’s more unusual about “True Lies” is that the Lightstorm Entertainment film is a big-budget feature, not the type of project where this kind of non-union hiring usually occurs.

“What’s happening is they’re getting two to three months of construction work for half the price,” said one crew member on “Lies.””And they don’t bother to sign a contract until their stars (in this case Arnold Schwarzenegger) show up for work.”

A representative for Lightstorm could not be reached for comment.

On “Lies,” set contractors have not been getting their usual $ 350 per day, and instead are working for $ 150-$ 175 a day.

The rates get even lower in television, where there have been cases of construction crews working on sets for $ 6 an hour.

Among the other ongoing films that used non-union pre-production workers was the Disney-financed “Cabin Boy,” a film that did not sign a contract until principal photography began.

“The studios think they can hire the hammers at low rates, but they fail to realize that professional set builders can save them money in the long run,” said Harry Floyd, West Coast topper for the IA.

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