West Coast members approve pact which includes 2% wage increase

The West Coast members of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Employees — Hollywood’s key below-the-line union — have ratified a new three-year master contract.

The new deal, which was negotiated in March and April with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Prodicers, includes a 2% annual wage hike along with $250 million in new employer contributions to the health plan via a 20% increase. It goes into effect on Aug. 1.

IATSE said Tuesday the pact had been ratified by the 14 Hollywood-based locals representing over 38,000 members of the IATSE working in motion picture and TV.

“The AMPTP knew we were going to stand fast on several important points in the negotiations and this agreement represents a fair and equitable contract for our members,” said IATSE president Matthew Loeb in a statement.

“This is a strong contract at a time when unions in both the public and private sectors are under fire nationwide,” he added. “We have protected our members in all the areas we cover and look forward to keeping our members working. We exceeded standards significantly, especially in health contributions.”

The AMPTP issued a statement in response: “”Ratification of the IATSE Hollywood Basic Agreement will put the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan on track to overcome its funding crisis as well as provide those working under that Agreement the same two percent (2%) annual wage increases as negotiated in all recent industry deals. The new contract is a critical step in keeping feature film and television production in Southern California as a vital part of the regional economy.”

In the ratification push, IATSE leaders touted the deal as significantly sweeter than recent deals for other industry unions. The master contract deals in 2010-11 for SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America provided for 2% in minimum wage hikes and a 1.5% increase in benefit contributions.

When the deal was announced on April 13, Loeb asserted that it would resolve the problem of an anticipated funding shortfall of over $400 million in the union’s pension and health plans. In exchange, IATSE agreed to the first-ever premiums for health plan coverage — $25 per month for participants with one dependent and $50 for those with two or more dependents, or $75 and $150 per quarter, beginning next year, while those without dependents will continue to not pay premiums.

The notice also said the deal won’t require an increase in eligibility hours — a provision that was included in the final year of the current IATSE contract — and keeps the pension plan in “safe green zone” status. And it defended holding “early” negotiations in March, with five months left on the current deal, as promoting stability and giving the IATSE more bargaining power.

The ratification comes less than a week after the AMPTP reached a tentative three-year deal with Hollywood Teamster drivers along with four other basic craft unions. Key pension and health issues had been already settled in April when the five unions had jointly negotiated on healthcare issues for the first time with the IATSE West Coast locals.

No details of the Basic Crafts contract were announced but the deal is along the same lines as the IATSE agreement.

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