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The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which reps more than 100,000 below-the-line showbiz workers in the U.S. and Canada, has opted for early negotiations with studios starting in November.

With IATSE’s current three-year pact expiring July 31, move reflects prexy Thomas Short’s strategy to avert the production slowdowns that take place when contracts go down to the wire.

IATSE’s last round of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers resulted in a tentative agreement in October 1999, nearly 10 months before that contract’s expiration. Deal, which provided for 3% annual pay hikes as well as improved pension and health contributions, was ratified by a vote of 9,547-772 two months later.

An IATSE rep confirmed that negotiations would begin in November. The AMPTP had no comment.

Short, who is in his third term as president, criticized the Writers Guild of America last year for seeking what he deemed as unrealistic goals at the bargaining table and the Screen Actors Guild for not beginning negotiations earlier. The WGA and SAG settled three days after their respective contracts expired, after the prospect of looming strikes caused studios and nets to stockpile product.

By contrast, the Directors Guild of America also opted for early talks in 2001 year and reached a settlement in December with the AMPTP on a three-year deal, seven months before its contract expiration.

IATSE’s divisions include grips, lighting techs, costume designers, costumers, cinematographers, makeup artists, hairstylists, art directors, set designers, set painters, scenic artists, script supervisors, studio mechanics and propmakers.