The IATSE agreement clears the way for using artificial intelligence as a tool.

Artificial intelligence could be used as a tool, with relatively few limitations, under an agreement reached last week between major studios and the union representing film crews.

The International Union of Theatrical Stage Employees released more details of its contract over the weekend. The deal provides that workers can ask their employers for “consultation” about the use of AI, that a committee will be established to offer AI skills training, and that the use of AI by non-union labor cannot be outsourced.

Underscoring the “tool” analogy, Dell provides that if the worker uses its AI system, they can receive a “kit rental fee” — similar to the sound recording equipment or other employee-owned equipment. Those take for gear.

But the terms do not provide for severance pay for workers who lose their jobs because of AI. The contract offers a relatively narrow protection in this regard, providing that no employee shall be compelled to make signs that would displace other union workers.

The role of AI was a major topic of last year's strikes by the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA. In the end, both unions got deals that give creators control over how they use AI, and guarantees that AI use will be compensated.

IATSE terms are somewhat different, in part because the union is bargaining on behalf of a wide range of sectors – from hairstylists and boom operators to editors and cinematographers.

The terms provide a protection that parallels the SAG-AFTRA agreement: IATSE workers must give separate consent to any AI scanning, and scanning cannot be a condition of employment.

The union is set to hold a series of town halls with members to answer questions ahead of the ratification vote.

Since the start of talks nearly four months ago, the union has made it clear that it sees AI as a tool with potential upside for workers.

“Sometimes new technology creates new jobs,” said Matt Loeb, the union's international president. Variety In February. “My hope is that some of the utility and/or benefits of AI will filter down to staff.”

Under the agreement, employers retain the right to prevent employees from using AI in their work. If they allow the use of AI, employers will indemnify workers from legal liability, except in cases of “gross negligence or willful misconduct.”

The agreement also provides for quarterly meetings with individual employers to discuss AI and biennial meetings with the studio group as needed.

AI's terms were well settled before the negotiations ended last Tuesday. Final issues were to emerge regarding funding for benefit plans and general wage increases.

The union was able to negotiate a 7% raise in the first year, followed by 4% and 3.5% increases. And health and pension funds will benefit from the new streaming arrears. In total, employers agreed to provide more than $700 million in additional funding for projects, to cover significant shortfalls caused by the pandemic and the twin strikes.

The union said in its summary of terms that the agreement provides that there will be no increase in health care costs for employees or their dependents, and no reduction in health benefits.

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