IATSE, Teamsters focus on health-care costs

Hollywood’s below-the-line unions and the media congloms have agreed to resume suspended negotiations on April 12 on a new master contract — with less than four months to go before the current master contract ends July 31.

Neither side made an official announcement Wednesday about the talks, which have been under a news blackout.

Move comes a week after the March 26 joint announcement that talks had been put on hold by the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers due to the need for additional time to review data.

Sources close to the talks have indicated that the complexity of health-care cost issues led to the suspension of the talks, which had started March 7. For the first time, the IATSE West Coast locals were negotiating jointly with Local 399 of the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters and four other Basic Crafts unions on health-care and retirement issues while holding separate bargaining on the remainder of their contracts.

In late 2010 and early 2011 health-care costs became a dominant component in negotiations for the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America. Those deals included 2% hikes in minimums, while the chief gain in each was an increase of 1.5¢ per dollar in employer contributions to the pension and health plans.

IATSE and the Teamsters have been scaling up activity since last fall to heighten membership awareness on the specifics of rising health-care costs with a series of explanatory sessions for members.

The Teamsters Local 399 covers about 3,200 drivers in 13 Western states and about 1,000 basic craft workers, while the IATSE deal covers 15 locals on the West Coast encompassing more than 20,000 members. The two unions entered into a formal alliance in August 2010 — two weeks after Teamster Local 399 drivers reached a deal with the AMPTP and synched up its contract expiration with the IATSE deal.

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