Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The $%&%# Contract

I'm going to deviate from the norm here for a minute and talk about something that concerns those of us covered by the IA Hollywood Basic contract that's up for vote. Yeah, it sucks. I'm a pretty forgiving guy and I have never asked for more than I work for. I'm not even a hardcore Union cheerleader. I have, however, been in the IA for almost twenty years and I've watched our benefits and working conditions deteriorate at a steady rate while profits rise. The new contract calls for the current 300 hour requirement for insurance to be raised to 400 hours. All right, I understand that medical costs have gone up and I understand that something has to give. I'm willing to give them that. The New Media contract is a joke. It has worse standards than the non-union shows I used to do. Interchageability of crafts (in other words, we're tools, not professional craftsmen). No minimum rates. Residuals, out the window. Then, we get a letter telling us what a great contract it is and that we should vote "yes." It's insulting. Especially in the light of the joke of an HBO contract that a lot of us are working under now that should have been renegotiated but hasn't.
Over the years I've watched producers get concession after concession and I keep getting letters telling me how great the new contract is from people who aren't standing out in the rain with me all night. Then, my OWN UNION keeps telling me that a "No vote is a vote to strike." Whose side are these guys on? I'm tired of being in a union that seems to just roll over at the whim of the AMPTP in every negotiating session. The studios are having record profits and the price of doing business for them keeps going down because we're weak negotiators. I've had it.
Rant over.

9 comments:

Wick said...

D,

I hear ya. I spent yesterday in contract negotiations here in Germany. We're in a really odd situation as the minimum rates for grips and electricians aren't even in the General Agreement (which covers every department here - camera, editing, production - everything). The offer this time from the producers was effectively less for a 2nd Grip than I got 20 years ago here in Germany. We have similar issues with insurance / unemployment benefits here and eligibility days (yep - days, not hours).

I say Strike. Like the song goes, "Whose Side Are You On?"

acraw said...

D, you hit the nail on the head when you mention the HBO contract and the new media provisions. The union has made such a big deal out of the 400 hours provision but that's actually the least egregious part of the contract. This contract, if it passes, will mark the beginning of the end of good quality jobs in Hollywood. You have to wonder who the union guys we pay to protect us are really working for because it sure the hell isn't the workers. I say vote NO on this dog of a contract(sorry to all dogs out there). It's time for us to take a stand and tell them we've given up enough. It will be painful to strike now but only in the short term(and a NO vote is not a strike vote--it's only a go back and negotiate a better contract vote). If we fail to take a stand now we will regret it for the rest of our working lives. It's worth the fight.

danworx said...

As soon as you have a family you have no option as to go for the Rate they offer. Or do the Poker Face Trick... ;-)

I just had negotiations that went o.k.ish.
My rate has only slightly increased in the last 10 Years so in fact I can buy less with the money I earn.
But the rates for 2nd Grip are really bad in Germany.If the second grip is good he should at least get the rate of the electricians, but they usually get only 2-3 quarter of the electricians rates. Which ist not very motivating for them. So they either become electricians or try to become dolly grips themselves which makes the competition very hard at least price wise.

The only light at the end of the tunnel is the work safety commission over here wich starts to control the productions more regularly for overtime/turnaround violations wich makes it harder for the productions to press to much work in an already tight schedule. So hopfully we will get longer contracts (more shooting days), wich is a good thing.

Greetz danworx

Michael Taylor said...

The new contract is a steaming pile of crap, along with all the feel-good "hey, this is the best we could do, boys" hot air coming from our union reps. 400 hours might not pose a problem for anybody on the core crew of a hit show, but for many of the rest of us, this marks the first step on the journey towards losing our health insurance altogether.

Those working on hit shows may be in high clover now, but things can change fast in this town. This year's hit show is next season's also-ran headed for the cancellation pile. The line between sitting pretty and being out in the cold is a lot thinner than most people realize -- and when you do find yourself out there in the cold, those 400 hours will loom large.

The New Media deal is ludicrous -- as I understand it, offering nothing but hours towards the health plan: no minimum hourly rates, no turnaround, no pension. Our only protection will be state or federal minimum wage laws, just like the burger flippers at McDonalds. As the producers step forward into the future, they're trying to scrape us off at the door. If this deal sticks, in ten years we might all be out in the cold -- and nothing could make the AMPTP happier.

I'll be long gone by then, but the rest of you in your 20's, 30's, and 40's have a lot at stake here.

I'm voting "no", not because I want to go on strike (I don't), but to force our IA reps to earn their big fat salaries by negotiating a better deal. The whole country is hurting right now, and if we have to give back some of that 3% raise to make a better deal, then so be it.

As for the HBO contract -- that thing is a absolute disgrace. Working for five bucks/hour under scale is bad enough, but to then be forced to work at least 14 hours every day is beyond the pale. Rectifying the abuses of the cable deal is long overdue.

D said...

Yeah, it's a crapshoot with most of the crap being shot at us. I spoke with two operators who said it's a "great" contract and if we go back to the table we'll lose what we have already. I just can't make myself care. So I say let the chips fall and tell them (IA leaders)to stick it.

D said...

Thanks Michael. Always razor sharp.
Wick, and Danworx- interesting insights into your own situations. Thanks and give 'em hell.
Acraw- as always a welcome addition. Thanks for the support.

D said...

By the way- US box office had the largest February in history at almost 800 MILLION DOLLARS!

John said...

I'm new to IASTE but have worked a little in the indie scene up north in the Pacific North West. Reading this news makes me wounder maybe as a whole IASTE needs to strike. Because the basic IA contract let alone the local specific amendments, are pretty terrible. The conditions on indie shows are bad but union shows from what I've heard and experienced are right down terrible. When contracts are being negotiated(I use the word lightly) that breaks our collective back and fills the producers pockets. That shouldn't be happening at all we should be treated for what we are. Professionals providing a service that requires trade and artistic skills; not some brainless monkey or spark for that matter. We're people, not surfs in some fiefdom. If a strike is required to let them remember who needs to be negotiating with who then so be it.

D said...

Thanks for dropping in John.