Four Days After SAG/AFTRA Talks Break Down, IATSE Reaches Pact w/ Indep Commercial Producers

News   Four Days After SAG/AFTRA Talks Break Down, IATSE Reaches Pact w/ Indep Commercial Producers A four-year contract has been reached between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP). While the contract is not directly connected to the SAG/AFTRA commercial strike, there are numerous inferences that can be drawn from the IATSE/AICP deal.

A four-year contract has been reached between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP). While the contract is not directly connected to the SAG/AFTRA commercial strike, there are numerous inferences that can be drawn from the IATSE/AICP deal.

The four-year IATSE/AICP pact was made effective Oct. 1, just four days after IATSE national president Thomas Short appeared before both parties at the negotiating table in the commercial contract talks. SAG/AFTRA actors and commercial advertising interests represented by the Joint Policy Committee of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) were both present at the Sept. 27 meeting in New York where Short pledged IATSE's support of the SAG picket line.

IATSE stagehands and technicians are one of the essential groups employed in the production of commercials.

The membership of the AICP comprises independent commercial producers, meaning those who bid on projects for advertising agencies. Essentially film makers for commercials, the AICP members also job out the various production contracts for all aspects of a commercial except for actors.

An AICP spokesperson told Playbill On-Line that the actors in independent commercials are hired directly by advertisers (or their agencies) and not by the AICP or its membership. As such, the spokesman said, while his association supports a quick resolution of the commercial conflict, the ongoing commercial strike by actors is "not our fight." The IATSE/AICP contract was expected to have "no bearing on the SAG issue," according to an IATSE spokesperson, but there is little question that inferences can and probably should be made as a result of it.

One of the significant "substantive improvements" IATSE points to in the new pact with AICP is some sort of preliminary "jurisdictional recognition" of commercials produced for the Internet. Jurisdiction over the Internet is the critical toehold unions seek in this new media, which may or may not grow according to expectations.

According to an IATSE statement, the Oct. 1 pact with independent commercial producers "provides for substantive improvements in wages and working conditions as well as interpretive clarifications. Significantly, the parties reached an agreement avoiding a dispute over the Internet, while recognizing the Internet may become an outlet for commercials produced by signatory companies employing IATSE represented technicians and artisans. Rather than attempt to define work rules for this yet-to-evolve outlet for the delivery of commercial messages, the parties agreed to good faith negotiations for this new work if and when it arrives, and as it matures. Further, those on-going discussions will not pose another disruptive threat to [the] commercial production community. The jurisdictional recognition extended to the IATSE is coupled with the continuity of the contract's provisions covering union security, no-strike/lock out, grievance resolution, and continuing contributions to the employee benefit plans while the parties address the issues that the Internet delivery of commercials will pose for the industry."

In the same prepared statement, IATSE's Short said the "provisions covering the Internet and the use of new equipment which may be used to capture moving images are of paramount importance to us."

A source close to the Screen Actors Guild said that the Internet issue remained a major hurdle—perhaps the single biggest hurdle— in that union's recent negotiations with commercial advertising interests. In the last round of negotiations which broke down on Sept. 27, unions sources said that right up to the collapse of the talks, the commercial interests refused to recognize the unions' jurisdiction over the Internet.

With the entertainment industry anticipating several months of anguish over labor issues with writers and actors, it is easy to interpret AICP president Matt Miller's written statement on the new pact as a message to unions and commercial advertising interests. In the Oct. 2 statement Miller said, "Our negotiations are reflective of how effective the collective bargaining process can be when the parties take the time to fully understand the interests and concerns of the other and move forward together to meet the challenges the new technology will present."

-- By Murdoch McBride