IATSE Chief Matthew Loeb outlined the key issues as the contract talks loom.

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Matthew Loeb is heading into what is likely to be the most productive negotiation of his 16-year tenure as IATSE International President.

Union contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are scheduled to begin on March 4. After lengthy strikes last year by the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, the industry is on edge about the possibility of another work stoppage. This time, IATSE is flexing its bargaining muscle by jointly negotiating key aspects of the contract with the Hollywood Basic Crafts Union as well as the Hollywood Teamsters.

In a wide-ranging Q&A, Loeb details the key issues at stake — AI, streaming arrears and pay raises — and why he has already announced that the IATSE will end its July 31 expiration date. The latter is not ready to extend its current contract.

Artificial intelligence became a big issue for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA during their contract negotiations last year. How do you see it affecting your negotiations? Is AI a threat to your members?

I will not use the word threat. They see it as a challenge. And I think we’re underestimating the impact of AI on our craft. Having said that, we are going to propose safeguards for jobs and standards and hope that AI will actually help us in the future. Sometimes new technology creates new jobs. Also, my hope is that some of the utility and/or benefits of AI will filter down to staff – that is, it will take some of the pressure off of the demands placed on people on a day-to-day basis.

Do you see this as a situation where AI is essentially a tool and you have to use it appropriately?

It’s going to be a tool, but it’s going to have to be negotiated and viewed from a human-centered perspective in my mind. The craft and artistic trades we represent should be in control of what has been produced as a result of their jobs to date.

SAG-AFTRA’s big topic was getting consent and compensation with AI. For them it’s ‘OK, we admit we’re not going to stop it. It is coming. Here it is. But we want to know when it is used and we want to be paid.’ Is this similar to the question you are asking?

Well, our cases are somewhat different. Obviously, the pictures of actors and such issues are different for us. For us, it’s really about the erosion or potential erosion of our craft by technology. We don’t get paid extra for licensing or images, copyrights and that sort of thing, although we do get residuals…..we represent scores of crafts, and the AI ​​challenges are somewhat different, obviously. That from a painter or someone. Carpenter from sound mixer to editor. The nuances vary but having said that, we are looking for umbrella protection that covers everyone with the same negotiated protection.

Your contract ends on July 31. You have already said that you will not extend it. Should we read that IATSE is taking a tougher position in these negotiations from the outset than in the past?

There are many reasons why we have taken this position. The amount of time that is set is used up, however long it is, and so we want to stake the deadline into the ground. We have to verify. [new] Prior to this agreement [the past contract] Expiration and you may take this message in any way, including, if we do not have a contract, we will send a strike vote.

So it’s not a foregone conclusion that there will be a strike authorization vote – is that what you’re saying?

I am saying this. My hope is that we have an agreement that is fair and good enough for members that they will ratify it. The final word is whether they accept the best deal we think we can get them.

Compared to 2021, people are probably suffering more than they are now. Whenever you go into negotiations, you want to have a reliable strike threat. Do you think you are in a strong position in this negotiation?

I think we are always in a strong position. Playing the game of chicken is a serious mistake. In these negotiations, we are here to make a deal, not to strike. But that, again, largely depends on employers responding to us in a meaningful way and responding to the 13 local unions that we represent and creating more security. It is a mistake to underestimate the determination of people. Times are different now. People are strong and they have that determination and they see the changes that can be made. … I caution against any assumption that we have become weak and are not in a position to use our strength to get what we need.

Let’s talk about salary. In 2021, you have 3% growth for three years – and then inflation immediately rises to 8%. SAG-AFTRA received a 7% raise for year one, followed by a 4% increase in year two and a 3.5% increase in year three. Is this a baseline for what you’re looking for? Or does it need to be more than that to capture your members?

We definitely have to build this land. And as you know, when inflation started to rise, we were in a bargaining cycle. So it was very difficult to go back and correct at the end of the last negotiation. But yeah, we’ll definitely try to make it and we’ll look closely at what the guilds got and the value of their contract. We will at least seek a proportional agreement for ourselves.

In 2021, the main issue was turnaround times and food penalties. It was people saying, ‘We’re being worked so hard, coming back from Covid, that people are just quitting their jobs, burning out and working 14-hour days. Is this still an issue for you?

We are analyzing the data. We’ve seen some improvements because of the conversations we’ve had. I think we still have some work to do. It seems that what we did was actually effective. The concept of people getting comfortable is really what we wanted. We’re not after fines and dollars – we’re about giving people a break, getting off their feet and eating or spending a little time with their families before they have to get back to work. .

Another big thing last time was the release of pension and health arrears. And I don’t remember if you get zero streaming residuals, or is that not enough?

In 2021, we funded projects in large part with additional support and on an hourly basis. [in which employers make contributions based on the number of hours worked by members]. There are a few ways our funds come in. One is hourly, one is residual and of course there is return on investment. Yes, we will find a way to tie the streaming product to residuals and create a more stable and permanent funding mechanism for the projects…. Let me just add that this negotiation, a lot of it is security, post COVID, and what people are going through. People have reflected on their lives and people want and need some change. And so there’s a catalyst to really do that now.

There was a long period last year during the strikes when people were not working and many of them are still not working. What was the impact on your pension and health fund?

Because of the management of health plans and pension plans, we were able to cover benefits for people during pandemics and strikes. And it’s expensive. We are still on target to deliver these benefits and promised pensions to people. So, again, it’s about more reliable funding and more money to make sure that security lasts into the future, and to make sure that we have A promise by employers that in this uncertain business, basic security will be provided. [IATSE members] and their families.

Compared to 2021, people are probably suffering more than they are now. Whenever you go into negotiations, you want to have a reliable strike threat. Do you think you are in a strong position in this negotiation?

I think we are always in a strong position. Playing the game of chicken is a serious mistake. In these negotiations, we are here to make a deal, not to strike. But that, again, largely depends on employers responding to us in a meaningful way and responding to the 13 local unions that we represent and creating more security. It is a mistake to underestimate the determination of people. Times are different now. People are strong and they have that determination and they see the changes that can be made. …I caution against any assumption that we have become weak and are not in a position to use our strength to get what we need.

One notable thing this year is that you’ve been negotiating with Hollywood’s primary craft union, particularly the pension and health pieces of the contract. Can you give me an idea of ​​the strategy there? Does this mean you are on the same page and asking for the same things??

The Teamsters and the Basic Crafts participate in the same benefit projects and the same abilities and the same grand design as we do. So we think it makes all the sense in the world to be at the table together and, frankly, it’s our hope that it will bring us more strength in the negotiations. Their interests are the same as ours. They are our sister unions and it is the right thing to do. Again, we think this will improve our position.

Are there any other major issues or themes you’ll encounter with AMPTP?

Sure, AI is a big deal. Studios must take local negotiations seriously and be held accountable with meaningful improvements. … And there is another issue, related to the subcontracting of our work, which is again a security issue. Some jobs we have done traditionally and some new technology has. [allowed] Employers have to enter into a contract of employment which is traditionally within our jurisdiction. We have to make sure we are protecting jobs and not farming them out.

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