The IATSE and the West Coast Studio Locals sit down to hammer out a new Basic Agreement every three years. Both sides come in with a list of proposals that address working conditions on production, cost issues and the continuing support for our Pension and Health plans. In 2012, we worked hard to shore up the monetary shortfalls we would have experienced in the Pension and Health plans.
The commitment for the 2015 contract negotiations was to address quality of life issues. We focused on the long hours and short turnarounds all IATSE members experience working production. President Loeb made an impassioned speech to bring the effects long hours and short turnarounds have on the health of our members and their families. I only wish every rank-and-file member could have witnessed his fire and passion. With this speech the negative effect of long hours and short turnarounds became very real in the eyes of the AMPTP.
The Producers agreed that this is a real problem but seem to stall when working out a solution. The Basic Agreement will now include a side letter, “Guidelines Regarding Extended Work Days.” This will address how sleep deprivation affects your driving but it falls short of saying that sleep deprivation has the same effect as driving while alcohol-impaired, yet the employer refuses to bend on the long hours worked. The IATSE has been very successful including the 10-hour daily turnaround and 56-hour weekend turnaround in one-off contracts with the Low Budget producers and all contracts in Canada. President Loeb asked why production companies could make their low-budget shooting schedules work, however, under the Basic contract, the major studios just can’t seem to do it.
The last day of negotiations went twenty-four hours straight, fighting over several issues, not least of which was the long hours and short turnarounds. In the end, we were able to achieve many significant gains, but sad to say, the Rest Period/Callbacks was not one of them. The battle is not over. The spotlight is very bright on this issue and I see a time when the employers will acknowledge this and work with us to achieve a more healthy and safe working environment and give back our weekends.