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Hollywood Scrambles to Avert Strike

Workers in TV and film production in the US are pressing for better working conditions.

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Los Angeles: Negotiations between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents film and television crew members throughout North America, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Televisions Producers (AMPTP), the bargaining unit for producers with studios, have now resumed in Hollywood in order to avert a threatened strike which would affect film and TV productions nationwide.

As widely reported, members of the IATSE voted overwhelmingly over the weekend to authorise a strike, bringing film and TV productions one step closer to shutting down if a contract negotiation with major studios is not resolved soon.

It was the first time in the 128-year history of the IATSE that a nationwide strike has been approved and with the support of 98 per cent of the voters. The outcome is a clear indication that the 60 thousand members who work in television and film will keep pressing for better working conditions. Talks between the two organisations broke down earlier last month.

“The members have spoken loud and clear. This vote is about the quality of life, as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry,” said IATSE president Matthew Loeb of the strike authorisation.

IATSE’s recent three-year contract expired in July and the two parties have been trying to craft a new one, however, IATSE said the AMPTP needs to address issues such as excessively unsafe and harmful working hours, fair wages for all production workers, and reasonable rest periods and meal breaks.

It is well known that individuals that work in film and television productions don’t usually have set hours, often skip meals, and are forced to work on weekends and holidays. In addition, many of these workers are in the lowest-paid positions.

In a statement after the strike authorisation, the AMPTP said by leaving the table, the IATSE “walked away from a generous comprehensive package.” They further stated that the contract offered included improvements in rest periods, as well as increases in wages and benefits.

The threat of a strike comes as Hollywood productions are starting to boom again after being shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Soundstages are beginning to, once again, be in short supply and productions are now having trouble finding enough workers to keep shooting.

This fact has further emboldened the IATSE, with members arguing that the pressure to work long hours has grown worse in the streaming age, particularly as studios scramble to ramp up production time lost during the Covid-19 shutdowns. The union said it received over 50 reports of 14+ hour workdays during the first seven months of 2021 as reported by Quartz News.

“I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members,” Loeb said. “The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer,” the IATSE president stated as talks were set to resume with the AMPTP.

The last major Hollywood strike was from 2007 to 2008 when 12,000 writers walked off their jobs. It lasted for 100 days and caused productions to be delayed, shortened, and even resulted in shows being canceled. It’s too soon to know how long an IATSE strike would last but it would affect significantly more workers with 60,000 crew members, ranging from editors to make-up artists to camera operators, potentially walking out.

Film and television shows produced by studios including Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros, Apple TV, Netflix, Disney+ and others could be affected by the strike which could extend through the United States and Canada and could have ripple effects on shows worldwide.

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