The studios have made some concessions on IATSE’s demands regarding long production hours, but an agreement still remains “a ways off,” according to an update from one IATSE local on Thursday.
David O’Ferrall, the business agent of IATSE Local 487, told members that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers had agreed to 10-hour turnaround times on all productions. He also said there had been “movement on weekend turnarounds” — one of the union’s top priorities.
Negotiators are hoping to avert a strike, which would shut down TV and film production across the country. More than 52,000 IATSE members voted over the weekend to authorize IATSE’s chief Matthew D. Loeb to call a strike if the union’s demands are not met.
“There has been some progress in the negotiations but not enough,” O’Ferrall reported. “While they may be at the table we are still a ways off from a deal. The AMPTP is pushing back to see where they can create cracks but the IA sentiment is to bargain hard and get what we are due.”
Another local reported on Wednesday that the situation was still “fluid.”
Sources close to the management side report that negotiations have been moving slowly but also cordially. “This is not the WGA,” one management-side labor veteran said Thursday, noting that the tension level was lower than in previous tough AMPTP contract situations. Sources note that the IATSE negotiation involves 13 disparate locals with specific disciplines that need to be addressed, which also slows down the process.
In addition to committing to 10-hour turnaround as a quality of life issue, sources said the AMPTP companies are in agreement on terms that may wind up adding an extra day to production schedules for drama series. While seven- and eight-day shoots for hourlong episodes have been the norm for some time, a minimum nine-day shooting schedule is likely to become the standard going forward.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents the vast bulk of Hollywood’s production workforce, is looking to curb the practice of having workdays run 14 hours or longer. Union negotiators are also looking to put an end to “Fraturdays,” which are late-Friday shifts that run into Saturday morning, effectively eating into workers’ weekends.
“Turnaround” is a term for the minimum time between shifts. Some workers have 10-hour turnarounds already, but some have only eight or nine-hour turnarounds. A 10-hour turnaround for all workers has been one of the union’s objectives in the negotiation. The union is also seeking a 54-hour turnaround on weekends.
O’Ferrall also reported that the AMPTP had made “small movement” on two other union priorities — meal penalties and “new media.” The union wants to increase meal penalties as a way to force productions to break for lunch, and is also seeking to bring streaming productions into line with wages paid on traditional projects.
The union also wants higher wages for the lowest-paid workers in the bargaining unit, which include writers assistants and script coordinators. O’Ferrall reported that “wages and benefits are still at issue.”
The union and AMPTP returned to the bargaining table on Thursday for a third day of talks since the results of the strike authorization vote were announced Monday. The two sides are seeking to hammer out a new three-year agreement, which would also address the financing of the union’s pension and health plans.
The negotiators represent 13 locals on the West Coast, which are covered under the Basic Agreement, as well as 23 locals around the country, which are covered under the Area Standards Agreement. The two deals share the same basic template, and are being negotiated simultaneously.
Local 487 is headquartered in Baltimore, and is covered under the Area Standards Agreement. O’Ferrall sought to reassure his members that the two bargaining units will not be pitted against each other.
“There will be equitable deals for both agreements or no agreements at all,” O’Ferrall said.
The AMPTP declined to comment.