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California and the West

Union reaches agreement on U.S., Canada film jobs

December 15, 2006|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

The umbrella union for Hollywood's technical workers said Thursday that it had negotiated an agreement with makers of low-budget films that would for the first time cover productions in both the U.S. and Canada.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said the new three-year deal was signed by a group of producers including Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Focus Features and Bob Yari Group.

The agreement takes effect Jan. 1, replacing one expiring this month that applied only to U.S. productions. It aims to level the playing field between workers in both countries through uniform wages and conditions.

Canada has lured scores of feature film and TV productions in the last decade by offering tax incentives and, to a lesser extent, lower labor costs. But runaway production has slowed in the last two years because of the rise in the Canadian dollar.

The agreement reflects union President Thomas C. Short's push to organize workers in the independent and low-budget film world and to strengthen the union's clout in Canada.

Although many Canadian workers belong to the alliance, which has more than 100,000 North American members, contracts have been negotiated by local affiliates, not the international union.

"I am proud to have secured this historic agreement," Short said in a statement.

The deal also raises the budget cap for low-budget films to $10.2 million from $9 million over three years, establishes common work rules and sets minimum wage rates. Rates, however, are as much as 20% lower than those for higher-budget films.

More than 400 films are expected to be produced under the deal, said Los Angeles attorney Howard Fabrick, who negotiated for producers.

"It gives producers a stable platform to plan for production," Fabrick said.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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