Cameras coalesce

Central, Eastern locals set to merge into H'wood pact

In another move toward unification, the industry’s largest below-the-line union announced that it has forged a tentative agreement with film and television producers to merge the contracts of Hollywood, Central and Eastern camera locals.

Under a deal reached Thursday, the contracts covering the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees’ New York-based Local 644, as well as Chicago and Orlando-based Local 666, will be rolled into the Hollywood basic agreement.

The agreement, set to expire on July 31, 2000, also merges health and pension plans. Last year, the three camera locals merged into Hollywood-based Local 600, but the Central and Eastern locals had retained separate contracts with producers.

IATSE officials say they expect its nearly 5,500 members to complete a ballot as early as Dec. 1. The tentative agreement, which allows for side agreements for special regional concerns, was negotiated by representatives from MGM, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros.

“Local 600 has achieved the major objective of its merger, one national union, one national contract and one set of benefit plans for all members,” said Intl. prexy George Spiro Dibie, ASC. “Since the camera locals were founded 70 years ago, this is the first time we have spoken with one voice at the bargaining table.”

While the national agreement could help photographers continue to overcome the union’s historical fragmentation and division, producers also viewed the deal as advantageous.

“We will get great relief from the formerly onerous New York City conditions,” said Stephen Koppekin, negotiations chair for producers and Paramount’s senior VP of industrial relations. With the new agreement “you can transfer crews across the country. It just makes it a lot easier to shoot a motion picture.”

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