US film and television workers brace for strike that could cripple Hollywood

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The lagging negotiations between film and television crews and US producers for just and safe working conditions reached a tipping point as a large union representing 60,000 members declared a nationwide strike, which would be the largest since the 1940s and cripple the industry affected by the pandemic, is scheduled for next week.

A strike would end the shooting of a wide range of film and television productions and extend far beyond Hollywood, affecting productions in Georgia, New Mexico and other North American shoots.

The International President of the International Alliance of Theater Workers (IATSE), Matthew Loeb, said on Wednesday that the strike would begin at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, October 18, unless an agreement was reached on the periods of rest and meals and on the remuneration of its lowest paid workers.

Loeb cited a lack of urgency in the pace of negotiations to set a strike date. “Without an end date, we could go on talking forever,” Loeb said in a statement.

A strike would be a serious setback for an industry that has recently returned to work after long pandemic shutdowns and recurring aftershocks amid new outbreaks.

Last week 90% of IATSE members voted and over 98% of the votes returned were in favor of authorizing a strike. The union wants to reduce working hours to around 14 hours a day as demand for TV shows and movies has increased, especially for streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney +, Apple TV + and Amazon Video.

“There are five full days to come to an agreement,” said Jarryd Gonzales, a group publicist representing the studios. “The studios will continue to negotiate in good faith with the goal of reaching an agreement for a new contract that will allow the industry to continue to operate.”

As in other industries, many people behind the scenes began to reassess their lives and the demands of their profession during the pandemic. And now that production is on the rise again, union leaders say “catching up” leads to worse working conditions.

“People have reported that working conditions are deteriorating and worsening,” Jonas Loeb, IATSE communications director, told The Associated Press last week. “And those 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers who are under these contracts are really at a breaking point.”

It would be the first national strike in the 128-year history of the IATSE, whose members include directors of photography, cameramen, decorators, carpenters, hairdressers and makeup artists, animators and many more.

Union members say they are forced to work excessive hours and do not get reasonable rest through meal breaks and enough free time between shifts. Executives say the lowest paid artisans receive unliveable wages. And online streamers are allowed to pay even less under previous deals that allowed them more flexibility when they were newbies.

“We have continued to try to make employers understand the importance of our priorities, that they are human beings and that working conditions are about dignity, health and safety at work,” said said Rebecca Rhine, National Executive Director of the Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600. “Health and safety issues, unsafe hours, not interrupting meals, have been the exception for many years in the industry. industry, which is a tough industry, but what they have become is the norm.

The union reported on Oct. 4 that its members voted overwhelmingly to allow its president to authorize a strike, but negotiations and hopes of avoiding a walkout resumed after the vote.

The Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios and other entertainment companies in negotiations, said its members value their team members and are committed to avoiding a shutdown in an industry yet in recovery that provided a home-away-from-home entertainment escape for so many people working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A strike is always difficult for everyone. Everyone suffers, it is hard, but I believe that our members have the will and the determination to do what is necessary to be heard and so that their voices are translated into real change in the industry, ”Rhine said. “What we have learned from the pandemic is that employers can change the way they do business if it is in their best interests to do so.”

AMPTP recently told US media that it had made concessions on salaries, pensions and health care at IATSE.

In the last major strike in Hollywood – film and television writers for three months in late 2007 and early 2008 – all scripted shows were forced to shut down and television networks aired reruns of comedies and dramas.

The so-called “below the line” technicians involved in the current conflict have not put down their cameras, makeup brushes and accessories since 1945. This event, known as “Hollywood’s Bloody Friday”, has seen many heavy clashes outside of Warner Bros. studio near Los Angeles.


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