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Film and TV union could strike for first time in history

Film and TV union could strike for first time in history

The union representing behind-the-scenes workers in film and television has overwhelmingly voted to strike for the first time in 128 years.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) said nearly 99 percent of its registered members - totalling 52,706 people - voted in support of a strike over the weekend.

The strike comes as the union calls for improved conditions for craftspeople, technicians, and labourers who work for Netflix, Apple and Amazon.

Better pay, reasonable rest periods, safer hours, and guaranteed meal breaks are among some of the requests made of the streaming giants.

“I hope the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members,” Matthew Loeb, the alliance’s president, said in a statement.

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“The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer.”

Negotiations began between the IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) - which represents studios and streamers - after the most recent three-year contract expired in July.

But conversations stopped on September 20, the day after shows that are popular on the streaming services like The Crown, Ted Lasso, and The Queen’s Gambit took out the top prizes at the Emmy Awards.

With the goal of reaching an agreement rather than having “a dispute”, Mr Loeb said the union’s vote was about the “quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry”.

The IATSE said it was “incomprehensible that the AMPTP, an ensemble that includes media mega-corporations worth trillions of dollars, claims it cannot provide behind-the-scenes crews with basic human necessities like adequate sleep, meal breaks, and living wages”.

In a statement, the AMPTP said it would seek an agreement that would keep the industry working, particularly following the economic fallout due to the pandemic.

“A deal can be made at the bargaining table, but it will require both parties working together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions to resolve the open issues,” it said.

If the negotiations result in a strike, it would be the first nationwide movement in the history of the theatrical stage worker group.

Several big names in the industry have thrown their weight behind the movement, including actor and producer Octavia Spencer, Jeffrey Wright, and Frances Fisher.

“Our #IATSE brothers and sisters have spoken. They will #strike for better work conditions. I hope #AMPTP does the right thing and sits down again,” Spencer wrote on Twitter.

“They’re not asking for anything unreasonable.”

Image: @iatse / Instagram

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