Early talks between producers and the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees have ended without an agreement in sight, and both sides are reviewing their options.The current contract expires Aug. 1, and no further talks are planned yet. Sources said one of the crucial points of the negotiations centered on the IA’s desire for a commitment from the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers to film more television shows in Los Angeles, and thus increase jobs for below-the-line crews. The producers, in response, were looking for the union to agree to cost trade-offs–lower vacation pay, “golden time” overtime (double-time-and-a-half or more), drive-to pay and a lower basic rate charged by construction crews. Producers contend that the exodus of filming from Los Angeles will continue unless it becomes cheaper to film here. “If we can establish wages that attract producers to do their filming here, then that means more work for everyone,” one producer said. Union’s goal: More work The union’s No. 1 priority is getting more work for its members, but union sources said the producers have yet to offer any definite improvement in the job situation in exchange for union concessions. “At this point we don’t see any purpose in making concessions until the producers are willing to give us something substantive in terms of guaranteeing work for our members,” a union source said. It’s an important issue, given that many of the IA’s locals were reporting unemployment rates of 40% to 60% last year. While the unemployment can be partly blamed on the recession, it is also due to the number of TV programs that are being shot outside the local area and outside the state. One of the touchiest issues in negotiations concerns Article 20, which allows producers to contract out non-union work on production and distribution and negative pick-ups. Union members charge that the clause has allowed producers a loophole to set up non-signatory “indie” companies that hire non-union workers even though they receive funding from signatory companies. “With Article 20, they can contract work out with impunity. … The business agents want a change that will guarantee union members the jobs they deserve,” another union source said. Disturbing numbers The producers said they believe that out of the 29 one-hour shows that started up at the beginning of the season, 15 were shot outside Los Angeles. They also cite some 50 telefilms that were shot in Los Angeles over the past year, but only eight were under IA contract. The same flight is happening in the feature film arena, producers contend. No one is disputing that filming flight is taking place, but union officials have unanimously agreed that the producers’ current offer asks a great deal in terms of concessions but offers little in return. Among the offers the producers put forth was the “possibility” of bringing in 12 one-hour programs and six half-hour programs to be shot locally that they said would otherwise be filmed elsewhere. But union officials remain skeptical. They said the producers may already have those programs lined up to be filmed locally. Expensive location As an example of how costly it is to film here, producers say the costs of building sets in Los Angeles far exceeds similar costs elsewhere. They told IA officials that rates outside California for construction crews ranged from $ 12 to $ 16 an hour, compared to more than $ 20 an hour here. Whatever the reason, the result has been that not only are IA members suffering from record unemployment, but their health plan is increasingly unwell. With fewer members working, contributions to the health plan have dropped off, threatening its survival.
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