Let the waiting begin.
Negotiations between the studios and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees are expected to continue on Wednesday as the sides try to avoid a strike that would shut down production and immediately cripple Hollywood’s content pipeline.
In what could be taken as a sign of progress, the two sides are not saying much publicly about the negotiations. One union official told Variety that the latest proposal from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was a “nothingburger,” but otherwise union officials have been fairly quiet. On the other hand, the producers seemed to show little sign of caving on major issues after the unions delivered a resounding 99% vote to authorize a strike on Monday.
Talks could go for several days, with the two sides meeting via Zoom and then breaking off into separate groups to discuss their responses. The unions — representing the bulk of Hollywood’s below-the-line workforce — are seeking rest periods and increased “turnaround” times between shifts. They are also looking for higher wage scales for script coordinators, writers assistants, and other low-paid workers, as well as increased residuals from streaming services.
“We aren’t asking for the world. We want fair wages and a safe and healthy working environment,” said Salvador Perez, president of the Costume Designers Guild. “The studios need us… We should be treated as a valuable asset — a partner, not a cog in the system.”
Industry sources close to the management side continue to express optimism that a deal will get done because both sides have so much to lose in a work stoppage. Crew members, craft experts and others have gotten back into regular work schedules as the COVID threat has been tamed by strict protocols, albeit not without disruption. The network-studio conglomerates that dominate the industry have too much at stake in keeping a steady pipeline of content flowing to new platforms that are already consuming billions of dollars in investment capital.
“There is no way that (the studios) let this go down over hours on the weekend. It would be insane,” said a veteran industry executive who is closely watching the talks.
One big hurdle that IATSE chief negotiator Matthew Loeb has to overcome, sources said, is streamlining the disparate demands of locals that represent various disciplines into one over-arching list of priorities to focus on. “He’s got to get his people in line — that’s what has to happen this week.”
Jazz Tangcay and Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.