The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees agreed to a tentative three-year contract with the major Hollywood studios Wednesday, becoming the fifth union this year to conclude a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The proposed agreement was modeled on similar pacts negotiated by writers, directors and the smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, that established pay terms for programs streamed on the Web.
Although terms were not disclosed, the pact was said to include a modest hike in union minimums and increased contributions to the union's health and pension plan as well as benefit cuts in response to rising health insurance costs.
The proposed contract, which must still be ratified by members, covers about 35,000 mostly blue-collar entertainment workers in Hollywood and New York.
"This was a tough negotiation during tough economic times, but both sides worked hard and negotiated reasonably to come to this agreement," IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb said in a statement.
IATSE and the studios recently resumed negotiations that were put on hold in April when the studios turned their attention to the Screen Actors Guild.
Both sides had plenty of incentive to get a deal done. Although IATSE's contract doesn't expire until August, insiders say the union's leaders were eager to conclude an agreement before the economy deteriorated further and weakened their leverage with the studios. IATSE leaders also want to avoid a walkout after many of their members were hard hit by the 100-day writers strike that ended in February.
For their part, the studios want to secure a deal to put further pressure on SAG, which has been without a contract since June 30. In what some saw as calculated timing, the IATSE deal was struck the day before the parties are scheduled to meet today with a federal mediator for the first time in four months. Few, however, expect a breakthrough in the stalemate.
In an apparent show of solidarity with actors, the Writers Guild of America, West, on Wednesday accused studios of reneging on its agreement negotiated in February.
The guild said that its members had not received residuals for shows streamed on the Web, and that studios have restricted residuals they're paying on movies and TV programs sold online.
Apparently, the sides can't agree on what they negotiated.
The WGA said studios had originally agreed to pay residuals for movies produced after July 1, 1971, and television programs produced after 1977, that are sold online.
Studios, on the other hand, say that what they agreed to do was make payments only for programs produced after February of this year.