Recently, we've been deluged with correspondence reiterating the "last nail in the coffin" argument. Employers have been successful in planting the seeds of doubt about the long-term economic effects if this industry were to be subject to a collective bargaining agreement. The straw that breaks the camel's back? Let's break that down by groups of employers, shall we?
First, we have the Major Motion Picture Studios. These companies produce tentpole films with budgets nearing two hundred million dollars, and with an average budget of seventy five or eighty million dollars. Virtually the entire production crew are covered by the IATSE Basic Agreement. And, wisely, most studios employ a core group of visual effects artists (even though most of the actual work is subcontracted) directly on the studio payroll. These people safeguard the studios' investment, guarantee quality control, monitor the cost of effects and the contractual commitments. And it is money well spent. We strongly feel these people should be treated with the same dignity and respect as the remainder of the crew. And, come on! This is a minimal cost, and isn't even a drop in the seventy five million dollar bucket!!
Next, we have the Major effects companies, several of which are owned by the very same Studios. They employ four hundred or more people and produce high-quality work. When the studio receives unsatisfactory work-product, or the release date is in jeopardy, the work then gets sent to these places on a 911 basis, to fix the mess. Again, we think these workers should be treated like their studio brethren. And, we seriously doubt these companies would be adversely affected. Many already provide medical and other benefits (401 k plan) to their "staff" employees.
We do acknowledge that there are a large number of independent shops for whom the competition is cutthroat and for whom an IATSE contract is a scary proposition. But, most of these companies offer some form of medical coverage and other benefits. The IATSE bargains for made-for-the-internet, reality programs, made-for-basic-and-pay-cable, low-budget theatricals, as well as for tradeshows, rock concerts, and other entertainment-related industries. We have experience in negotiating contracts with terms and conditions specifically tailored to keep those companies in business in the US, and to keep them profitable. The cost of those contracts are very competitive. We believe we could negotiate with these visual effects employers a contract that wouldn't drive them out of the country. And, just to make sure, we'll have YOU be a member of our negotiating committee! As soon as we have the necessary information, like; how much is the prevailing wage rate at these companies? do they pay overtime? do they provide any benefits? and how much do those benefits cost, we'll sit down with them and work out the details of a fair contract.
Now, some of these companies pay on a 1099 basis. And don't pay overtime. Frankly, our agreements will have an economic impact on them. They'll have to pay people as employees and absorb the FICA and Medicare taxes. They'll pay straight time for forty hours and overtime for any additional hours. This will have a real economic impact on them. But, it's indefensible that they are currently able to underbid their competition by making their employees bear these costs. We simply can't allow it!! But for those companies obeying the law, we will negotiate a contract that will keep the work right here in Los Angeles.
Finally, we've observed that the work of 3D conversion is largely performed outside the country (predominantly in India) with corrections and quality control done locally. Our sources tell us that a small crew remains in Los Angeles to guarantee the quality of the work product. Again, we would intend to cover these workers with a simplified collective bargaining agreement including overtime and medical insuarance at levels that are affordable.
We'll fill in the blanks as we learn a little more about the cost of benefits currently being offered (and encourage our readers to share that information as they learn of it.)
We're here, (at firstname.lastname@example.org), and we're ready when you are.