In a sign that the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees may be headed for a showdown with the major studios, union leaders told members that they would "hold the line" on their health and pension benefits.
Matt Loeb, president of IATSE, and members of the union's West Coast bargaining committee sought to assure the rank and file that they were standing their ground in contract negotiations with the producers that ended on Monday without a deal.
"IATSE is continuing to hold the line on issues that are of importance to the membership -- health benefits, pension benefits and working conditions,'' Loeb and his colleagues said in an email to members distributed this week.
"We anticipate resuming negotiations prior to the expiration of the current agreement,'' the email continued. (The current contract expires July 31 of this year). "We remain committed to a new agreement that protects the needs of the membership and we'll continue to keep you apprised of any developments."
IATSE represents more than 100,000 entertainment industry workers, including camera operators, set decorators, grips and others who work behind the scenes on movies and TV shows.
People close to the negotiations say the sides remain divided over how to close a large deficit in the union's health and pension plans -- projected to be at least $300 million over the next three years -- because of investment losses and rising medical costs. The health and pension plans are funded by residual payments and employer contributions.
-- Richard Verrier
Photo: Matt Loeb, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, at the union's office in Studio City in 2011. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times