Contracts for 4,000 union members expire next week

Negotiations for 4,000 Hollywood Teamster drivers resume Friday, a week before its contract expires, with the two sides stuck on disagreements over salary.

Neither the Teamsters nor the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers would comment on the talks, which launched last month amid an improved outlook for the networks following the conclusion of a robust upfront season. However, sources have indicated that employers are citing depressed levels of advertising along with ongoing declines in the DVD market.

Negotiators held two weeks of talks last month and the key issue that emerged is whether this contract should mirror the 3% wage gains in the deal for the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, as the Teamsters contend, or the 2% gains in other deals made during the contract cycle — as the AMPTP argues. It’s understood that the two sides have tentatively agreed that the new Teamster deal will be for two years so its termination synchs up with the IATSE deal.

Teamster negotiators have argued that their members are entitled to the same 3% wage that was achieved last year by the 15 Hollywood-based locals of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees in a three-year deal with the congloms covering about 35,000 below-the-line members.

Studios and networks have asserted that a 2% wage hike is in line with other recent deals.

The current three-year contract expires July 31, and the outcome of the negotiations could provide guidance as to how upcoming bargaining with the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists may proceed when talks launch in the fall.

The Teamsters have set a strike authorization meeting for their members on Sunday and it would not be a surprise if the talks went down to the wire. The 2007 negotiations went several hours past the expiration, nine days after the employees gave negotiators a unanimous strike authorization.

The AMPTP, which serves as the negotiating arm for the companies, is talking with reps of Teamsters Local 399 and the four other Basic Crafts unions — Local 40 of the Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Local 724 of the Studio Utility Employees; Local 755 of Plasterers and Cement Masons, and Local 78 of Journeymen & Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipe Fitting Industry.

SAG and AFTRA are set to begin seven weeks of negotiations on Sept. 27 for their primetime-feature master contract. The Directors Guild of America is to start its talks in mid-November. The SAG, AFTRA and DGA deals expire on June 30, 2011.

The Writers Guild of America hasn’t set its talks. Its deal, hammered out after a 100-day strike in 2007-08, expires May 1.

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