US film and TV crews threaten to launch nationwide strike on Monday

A union said the walkout will go ahead if it does not reach a deal on fair and safe working conditions.

Wrexhan sign
Wrexhan sign

The union representing US film and television crews has said its 60,000 members will begin a nationwide strike on Monday if it does not reach a deal on fair and safe working conditions.

A strike would bring a halt to filming on a broad swathe of productions and extend well beyond Hollywood, affecting work in Georgia, New Mexico and other North American shoots.

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees International president Matthew Loeb said on Wednesday that the strike would begin at 12.01am on Monday unless an agreement is reached on rest and meal periods and pay for its lowest-paid workers.

Mr Loeb cited a lack of urgency in the pace of negotiations for setting a strike date.

“Without an end date, we could keep talking forever,” he said in a statement. “Our members deserve to have their basic needs addressed now.”

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

As in other industries, many behind-the-scenes people started re-evaluating their lives and the demands of their professions during the pandemic. And now that production is ramping up again, union leaders say the “catch-up” is resulting in worse working conditions.

“Folks have reported working conditions deteriorating and being aggravated,” Jonas Loeb, IATSE’s director of communication said last week.

“And these 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers that are under these contracts are really at a breaking point.”

It would be the first nationwide strike in the 128-year history of IATSE, whose members include cinematographers, camera operators, set designers, carpenters, hair and make-up artists, animators and many others.

Union members say they are forced to work excessive hours and are not given reasonable rest via meal breaks and sufficient time off between shifts.

Leaders say the lowest-paid crafts get wages that people cannot live on. And streamers like Netflix, Apple and Amazon are allowed to pay even less under previous agreements that allowed them more flexibility when they were up-and-comers.

“We’ve continued to try and impress upon the employers the importance of our priorities, the fact that this is about human beings, and the working conditions are about dignity and health and safety at work,” said Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of the Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600.

“The health and safety issues, the unsafe hours, the not breaking for meals, those were the exception for many years in the industry, which is a tough industry. But what they’ve become is the norm.”

The union reported on October 4 that its members had voted overwhelmingly to allow its president to authorise a strike but negotiations, and hopes to avert a walkout, resumed after the vote.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and other entertainment companies in negotiations, said its members value their crew members and are committed to avoiding a shutdown in a still-recovering industry.

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