Inside the IATSE Basic Agreement Deal: New Streaming Residuals, More Safety Officers and AI Guardrails

Crew union IATSE is revealing more specifics of the tentative West Coast contract deal that it struck with Hollywood studios and streamers on Tuesday.

In a summary of the three-year provisional agreement released over the weekend, the union detailed the wage increases, AI guardrails, safety provisions and health and pension funding mechanisms that it negotiated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. If ratified by the union’s membership, the new deal would affect some 50,000 costume designers, cinematographers, editors, grips and art directors, among many other crew members, who belong to 13 West Coast Locals. The ratification vote will take place between July 14 and 17, with results expected to be released on July 18.

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IATSE has already disclosed the tentative deal’s minimum wage rate increases: 7 percent in the first year, 4 percent in the second year and 3.5 percent in the final year of the agreement, the same formula that SAG-AFTRA secured in its strike-ending 2023 contract. But over the weekend the union added that certain project categories are also raising wages, such as so-called “Movies of the Week” and mini-series for streaming, basic cable and pay TV, whose rates are being increased by an average of 21 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Low Budget SVOD rates are being raised by an average of 25 percent, and Mid-Budget SVOD rates are being boosted by an average of 18 percent.

The deal’s language covering the use of AI in the workplace treats Hollywood’s employment of the technology as a given — and seeks to secure members’ jobs when it is utilized. Critically, the union says that “with very limited exceptions,” per the agreement, entertainment companies must negotiate “any impact the use of AI Systems may have upon employees with the union.” Moreover, the crew union and management agreed that “an employee shall not be required to provide prompts in any manner that results in the displacement of any covered employee” — in other words, that a union member will not be required to use the technology in a way that jeopardizes another union member’s job.

When AI is used and assigned to a union member, IATSE secured a promise that this work will be covered by the IATSE contract. Meanwhile, if an employee uses their own AI system for the work, they can negotiate a kit rental fee with their employer. Union members must provide consent in writing to be scanned and the union must receive companies’ consent forms before its members are asked to sign them. The deal promises the creation of a committee that will produce training programs in AI systems for union members and the agreement also allows the union to request quarterly meetings with individual companies and biannual joint industry-wide meetings to discuss AI issues.

Health and safety protections have long been a priority for crew members, who tend to work long days on set in sometimes difficult conditions. That danger was thrown into relief by the on-set death of Wonder Man rigger J.C. “Spike” Osorio in February and an accident injuring multiple crew members during production of The Pickup in April; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating both cases. In May, amid negotiations, 9-1-1 grip Rico Priem died and was found in an overturned vehicle following two consecutive 14-hour work days on the Fox procedural; the cause of death was found to be a heart attack.

In a move that could disincentivize long working hours, the union secured triple time pay for crew members after a work day extends past 15 hours and double time pay after a work day exceeds 12 hours, “except where a better condition exists.” On-call workers, meanwhile, are to be paid double time on their seventh work day in a week. The contact information for the person on set who is responsible for booking rides and hotel rooms for crew members is required to be printed on call sheets.

The tentative agreement also extends a pilot set safety program that is set to start in California in 2025 to two other states: Georgia and New York. Under the terms of the deal, between 2025 and 2026, each major studio will hire a dedicated safety officer on the set of one of its movies in a program “modeled on the California tax incentive legislation.” (Still, California’s pilot program is set to last far longer, for five years.)

IATSE has stated several times of the course of negotiations that the union needs to bring $670 million of funding into its health and pension plans over the next three years. The new deal will bring in $700 million in benefits funding and streaming residuals that will funnel into the plans, according to the union. The AMPTP has agreed that its signatories will pay a supplemental $1.09 per hour worked or guaranteed into the union’s health plan in the first year of the agreement. If the health and pension plans have sufficient reserves, pension benefit accrual rates will increase 15 percent for the next three years and retirees who retired before August 1, 2009 will receive 13th and 14th checks each year of the deal. Those who retire before 2025 will also receive an additional, one-time check.

The union additionally secured three new streaming residuals that will help to fund these benefits plans. A “Primary Market Residual for High Budget Subscription Video On Demand” for dramatic projects and “Secondary Market Residual” will move earnings into the health plan. Meanwhile, IATSE also won a version of the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA‘s streaming success payments, secured after those two unions’ 2023 strikes. IATSE’s version, a “Performance-Metric Bonus Residual,” is set to reward high-budget streaming shows that meet a certain threshold of views. (That threshold has not yet been disclosed.) Companies behind projects that meet the requirements will pay 100 percent of the “Primary Market Residual” to the union’s pension plan.

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