An 11th-hour deal has been reached to avert a strike by film and television crews that would have seen some 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers walk off their jobs and freeze work on productions in Hollywood and across the US.
After days of marathon negotiations, representatives from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and from the studios and entertainment companies who employ them reached the three-year contract agreement, avoiding a serious setback for an industry that has just returned to work after long pandemic shutdowns.
Union president Matthew Loeb described it as a “Hollywood ending”, adding: “Our members stood firm.”
The workers are yet to vote to approve the deal, but the strike has been called off.
The effects of the strike would have been immediate, with crews not only on long-term productions but daily series including talk shows walking off their jobs.
The union represents cinematographers, camera operators, set designers, carpenters, hair and make-up artists and many others.
Union members said previous contracts allowed their employers to force them to work excessive hours and deny them reasonable rest for meal breaks and sufficient time off between shifts.
Leaders said the lowest paid crafts were receiving unliveable wages and streaming outlets including Netflix, Apple and Amazon were allowed to work them even harder for less money.
The union’s statement said the agreement “addresses core issues, including reasonable rest periods; meal breaks; a living wage for those on the bottom of the pay scale; and significant increases in compensation to be paid by new-media companies”.
The union had said on October 4 that its members had voted overwhelmingly to authorise a strike, setting off industry-wide fears, but talks immediately resumed between it and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios and other entertainment companies in negotiations.
“We went toe to toe with some of the richest and most powerful entertainment and tech companies in the world, and we have now reached an agreement with the AMPTP that meets our members’ needs,” Mr Loeb said.
AMPTP spokesman Jarryd Gonzales confirmed the agreement had been reached.
It would have been the first nationwide strike in the 128-year history of IATSE, and would have affected not just the Los Angeles area and New York but growing production hubs like Georgia, New Mexico and Colorado.
During negotiations, many prominent names in entertainment spoke out in favour of the union’s demands, including Octavia Spencer, Mindy Kaling and Jane Fonda. The Directors Guild of America issued a statement of solidarity too, signed by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Barry Jenkins, Ron Howard and Ava DuVernay.