IATSE and Hollywood’s major employers will keep going on contract negotiations Thursday as the clock ticks down to Monday’s deadline for the union to call a strike.
Sources close to the situation confirm that the sides will be back to virtual bargaining sessions on Thursday. On Wednesday, IATSE ratcheted the pressure on the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers by setting at a deadline of 12:01 a.m. PT Monday for a walkout if the sides haven’t reached an agreement on a new three-year film and TV contract.
Sources say the sticking points in the negotiations continue to be the details around working conditions: the schedule of meal breaks and rest periods and the prevalence of so-called “French hours” shooting schedules where the production works through lunch with no formal break in order to finish the day faster. But that has become onerous for many crew members amid COVID safety precautions that bar anyone from bringing food on to the set.
On Wednesday evening, the 13 West Coast locals sent an update to members, saying they had received reports that employers were scheduling unplanned sixth and seventh days, and extra overtime. Many IATSE members have complained in recent days that producers appeared to be trying to cram in as much work as possible in anticipation of a strike.
“It is telling that during a negotiation focused on unsafe hours and other abusive working conditions, some AMPTP companies are intentionally choosing to risk the health and safety of our members to serve their own selfish interests,” the message stated.
The memo encouraged workers to report any unsafe conditions to the studio safety hotlines, and to make use of the studios’ system for providing a hotel room or a ride if workers are too drowsy to drive home.
The memo also acknowledged members’ questions regarding the strike, and said that the unions would put out an FAQ on Thursday. “Meanwhile resist the urge to share unverified information from sources other than your local or the Hollywood Bargaining Committee,” the memo stated.
The note opened with a quote from Winston Churchill: “Fear is a Reaction, Courage is a Decision.”
IATSE International president Matthew Loeb has steered negotiations for IATSE’s powerful 13 West Coast locals and 23 locals around the country for the past few months. The tension over working conditions for below-the-line workers caught much of Hollywood by surprise until IATSE took the rare step of calling for a strike authorization vote last month. The union received overwhelming support for a strike.
The 13 local IATSE unions on the West Coast have already been stockpiling picket signs and masks, and are preparing to set up schedules for picket duty. Those locals represent camera operators, cinematographers, publicists, costumers, makeup artists, editors, sound technicians, electricians and set painters, among other disciplines.
Gene Maddaus contributed to this story.