Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ratifying the Basic

The contract ballots are now out, and the Nikkster reports on the IA's campaign to pass the new Basic Agreement:

... According to an email sent from the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, President Steven Poster to a select group of National Executive Board members, a phone bank will be set up to call members and get them to Vote Yes. It is being coordinated by Western Region Director David Behm who will supply the phone lists. But it has raised questions about what Guild resources will be used and/or abused. "First, it is not the role of the Guild to lobby the members either for or against ratification -- although there is precedent from the 2006 contract ratification, where the NEB officially authorized an anti-contract-ratification campaign because of the loss of mandatory staffing of camera operators," one ICG Vote No organizer tells me ...

I've got no knowledge about what the Cinematographers Guild's National Executive Board needs to authorize, but almost every IA local campaigns to pass contracts during ratification. In years gone by, I've campaigned to ratify agreements going from studio to studio and talking to members, answering questions. Nothing at all unusual about it.

But to the big issue of this contract. The deal in a nutshell:

1) Hundred of millions of additional bucks from the companies to shore up the pension and health plan,

2) 3% annual wage bump-ups on contract minimums.

3) A Health Plan redesign (in other words, cuts),

4) Reducing the Plan reserves by a few months,

5) Upping the number of qualifying hours for the Health Plan from 300 to 400 hours in the third year of new contract (August, 2011.)

I'm informed that union reps were asked by the IATSE if co-pays or upping of hours were preferable (It was going to be one or the other, given the financial realities.) The vote was to go with higher hours.

I earlier lobbied for co-pays, but it didn't go that way. The thinking was it would be hard to roll back co-pays once they're part of the overall deal, but easier to get additional hours reversed if Plan finances improve during the next three years.

So ... is this new contract deal a bad one? Nope, not in this environment. The IATSE negotiated 3.8% improvements in each year of the contract, right in line with other contracts negotiated over the past twelve months.

What's painful is that 400-hour lump that has to be swallowed, because it's going to impact a number of IA members (Studies indicate 8-9.5% of participants will no longer qualify for benefits).

Will this contract pass? Sure, by 70-85%.

Are the unions campaigning to ratify right in doing so? Yes again, because if the deal goes down, it's back to the negotiating table, and the economic conditions are worse now than they were in November. There's not a huge chance that the next deal will be better. Most likely it will be worse ... but different.

The ballots are counted at the end of the month. We'll know then whether the IATSE has a ratified contract ... or a new negotiation on its hands.*

* The Animation Guild isn't in the IATSE bargaining unit (We were kicked out in 1985 for being overly ... ah ... rambunctious.) We'll be sitting down for our own contract talks in the next few months. We don't negotiate the benefits piece of our own contract. That's tied up with the Basic Agreement.


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