During the IATSE-AMPTP Co-op Meeting in Cathedral City last week, one topic of discussion was the coming negotiations with the Writers Guild of America.
It's not a big secret that IA topkicks and studio reps are like kind of pessimistic about how the talks will go. (Maybe even a teensy bit angry on the IA side? Since if SAG and the WGA go out on strike, everyone working on film sets will go out with them? Whether there's a contract or not?)
The New York Times had a background piece on the same subject a few days ago:
Hollywood labor talks have often boiled down to issues of leadership. This time around, [Patrick] Verrone — a retro-styled 47-year-old who has a background in both comedy and the law, and a taste for crisp white shirts that seem more Benchley than Bochco — has helped set a tone of wariness, if not outright anxiety, with his insistence on big solutions....
Since assuming the Writers Guild presidency 18 months ago, Mr. Verrone has made clear to the industry that he means to reverse trends that have weakened its traditionally strong union structure. He has replaced key members of his union’s professional staff, allied with fellow guilds and laid groundwork for a series of labor-management talks as the writers’ contract nears an end in October, followed eight months later by the industry’s agreements with the Directors Guild of America and the much larger Actors Guild.
Hollywood’s last extended shutdown occurred in 1988, when the writers began a five-month walkout over residual payments for the foreign sale of television shows, among other issues. The sides now face a potentially deeper dispute. The main areas of contention are the expansion of nonunion work by units of large media conglomerates like Viacom and News Corporation, and the way artists will be compensated for their work for the Web, mobile devices and other technologies still falling into place.
Company executives have argued that it is impossible to devise pay formulas for systems that are still in flux. “What the costs are going to be, what the revenues are going to be, we just don’t know,” said J. Nicholas Counter III, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
But Mr. Verrone is clearly intent on pinning down as much as possible now — and on avoiding the kind of arrangements (like the one regarding home video) that many in Hollywood’s creative world believe deprived them of rightful gains in the past.
There's a number of Hollywood players who talk as if a WGA/SAG strike is inevitable. Though a strike would impact everybody, it would hurt animation employees less than other film workers (voice tracks can be stock-piled, animation scripts are mostly under TAG rather than the WGAw, and so forth and so on.)
Me, I look on the bright side of the oncoming talks. If, end the end, SAG and the WGA can hammer out favorable new terms with the producers, the improved pattern of wages and benefits would ricochet back to every other Hollywood union -- Teamsters, the IATSE, and the Directors Guild of America. And if there's a strike?
Hopefully it will be short, with a favorable result after the picket signs come down.