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Studios, Teamsters to renew talks later this month

Deals for 5,000 workers expire July 31

Negotiations will resume in late June between the major studios and Hollywood Teamster drivers along with four other basic craft unions — with key pension and health issues already settled.

Leo Reed, secretary-treasurer of Local 399 of the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters, made the announcement on the local’s web site. He noted that the Teamsters had jointly negotiated on healthcare issues for the first time with the West Coast locals of Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — which reached a tentative overall deal in April that’s out for ratification.

“This unity was unprecedented,” Reed said.

The negotiations would cover about 4,000 Teamster drivers in the 13 Western states with the contract negotiated jointly with four other Basic Crafts unions repping about 1,000 workers: 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.

IATSE agreed two years ago to form an alliance with the Teamsters and the unions synched up their contract expirations so both current deals would expire July 31.

The IATSE deal includes a 2% annual wage hike along with $250 million in new employer contributions to the health plan. IATSE has touted the deal as better than the master contract deals in 2010-11 for SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America, which provided for 2% in minimum wage hikes and a 1.5% increase in benefit contributions.

“This agreement is far richer than that pattern,” IATSE noted in April. “Our increase of 2% and $1.00 per hour into the benefit plans is worth roughly 5% in the first year. The overall value of this contract for a member with a $33.00 wage rate is over 9%, front loaded, which means that all of the benefit increase go into the plan starting in the first year, rather than being spread out over three years as has been done in the past.”

If the new pact is ratified after being submitted to the 15 West Coast IATSE locals, representing more than 20,000 members, its provisions would go into effect on Aug. 1.

When the deal was announced on April 13, IATSE president Matthew Loeb said it would resolve an anticipated funding shortfall of more than $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.

Reed told members this week it would be “foolish” to strike on a contract on a total package that has wage increases and no takeaways — even including the premiums. He also praised Loeb and IATSE motion picture chief Mike Miller.

“It is still the best plan in Hollywood, and one of the best in the country,” he said. “Facing the huge deficit of $425 million dollars, Matt Loeb and Mike Miller had the members’ interest at heart, and we support them. We will never condemn the men in the arena.”

In the 2010 negotiations, Teamsters sought 3% in annual wage hikes but the companies insisted on a 2% wage gain, which the Teamsters accepted with several sweeteners along with the same 1.66% hike in benefits contained in the earlier IATSE deal. The Teamster deal set the template for negotiations in late 2010 and early 2011 with SAG, AFTRA, the WGA and the DGA.

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