Canadian screen productions could be affected by American film and television crews voting to strike over unfair working conditions.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)) and its 36 local unions, which represents 60,000 workers across the U.S, voted on Oct. 1-3 to take strike action. More than 98 per cent voted in favour of a strike, with 89.6 per cent of IATSE members casting ballots.
The vote took place after months of talks failed between IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) over two agreements covering U.S. film and television productions, the Hollywood Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement. The AMPTP covers both agreements.
While the strike authorization doesn’t affect Canadian union members directly, it could cause problems for U.S. productions choosing to shoot in Canada. Any Canadian-based productions that hire U.S. IATSE members under the agreements would be affected, and U.S. productions who attempt to film in Hollywood North, would be breaking a strike and Canadian union members would have the right to refuse work in solidarity with IATSE.
“On almost every large studio project, there will be a certain handful of key creative positions that come in from Los Angeles,” says John Lewis, IATSE International vice-president and director of Canadian Affairs. “Those individuals would be prevented from working under the basic agreement, even in Canada. So, if there is some kind of labour disruption, it would impact their ability to work on those shows in Canada as well.”
The vote marks the first time in the union’s 128-year history that members of the union have authorized a nationwide strike.
“This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry. Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage,” IATSE international president Michael Loeb said in a press release.
“It’s about respect,” he says. “People are getting run down and we need to change the culture that respects everyone that gives people basic human rights of rest, being able to eat and be able to go home and enjoy your family and then be able to come back full of energy and creativity the following day.”
Lewis also says the authorization of a strike means better pay and working conditions, including crew members getting more breaks between working days. He also says streaming services are a big part of the deal as well.
“There wasn’t a real established business model (when streaming came out), so all the unions and guilds took discounts to help the studios establish this new form of entertainment. And what we’ve seen now is this form is now is established and it no longer requires discounts in terms of wages or terms and conditions.”
He adds the pandemic has also likely played a role in the way film and television members see the work as more demanding.
The vote comprised of 36 local unions, 13 are located on the west coast and are covered by the Hollywood Basic Agreement, which Lewis says is expired and is under a bargaining process. The other 13 production hub states, like Georgia, Indiana and New Mexico, are covered by the Area Standards Agreement. Both local unions together consist of about 60,000 workers.
Lewis says he hopes the vote and the potential strike opens up the conversation to let all sides know they mean business.
“It’s remarkable that the amount of solidarity and the amount of people have come together to vote and they’re heavily engaged in this round of bargaining,” he says. “It lets the other side know that we are speaking with authority and with the backing of our membership. Hopefully, that pushes everyone to get sensible, get reasonable and gets a deal done.”
Lewis says negotiations have been taking place since Oct. 5 and an announcement from IATSE International will likely be released to the public in the coming days.