Michael Riedel is reporting in this morning's New York Post that The League of American Theatres and Producers will finally get back to the bargaining table with Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.) one week from tomorrow (November 7).
The two sides, which are scheduled to meet through November 9, have been at an impasse since October 9.
Since that time, of course, the stagehands union -- working without a contract since the end of July -- voted unanimously to authorize a strike. The following day, The League began imposing portions of its "final" offer on stagehands.
According to Adam Hetrick of Playbill, those include:
Setting the Running Crew
Stagehand crew size and job assignments were previously frozen on the opening night of a Broadway show. The League claims this does not allow enough time to "routine stagehand work and determine appropriate staffing levels." The crew size and job assignments will now be frozen six weeks after opening night. (The Union rejected this proposal.)
In some instances up to three electricians have operated the board that controls light, projection and sound cues -- a job that can be handled by one electrician. The new rule says that "three separate stagehands are not required" to operate such a board. (Local One tentatively agreed to codify this practice.)
Premium Pay for a 7th Day or 9th Performance
Stagehands who work a 7th day or a 9th performance (for example, a Monday performance for a show that regularly plays a Tuesday-Sunday schedule) are paid time-and-a-half. Previously, even those stagehands who had not worked all six days or eight performances were paid time-and-a-half for this extra performance. The League and the Union agreed to a proposed exchange whereby The League would not be required to pay time-and-a-half to those who had not worked the full week; however, The League agreed to pay time-and-a-half for all work "performed on any non-performance day where a production performs only five days per week (Wednesday through Saturday)."
Overtime Hiring Requirements
Previously, if only a few stagehands were required to work overtime, Broadway producers were required to pay overtime to all of the stagehands that had been called that day. Producers will now pay overtime only to the stagehands required to work past a given call period. (The Union rejected this proposal.)
Meal periods, the previous contract stated, must take place on the hour at 12-1 pm or 1-2 pm, and for evenings at 5-6 pm or 6-7 pm. During many load-in and technical rehearsal days, management was left a choice between "stopping and restarting work for an entire department on the hour or paying everyone a penalty of a time-and-a-half hour." The League will now implement meal time flexibility as long as a break is given within 3 to 5 hours of a stagehand's start time. The new rule would also allow a 30-minute break if a meal is provided for the crew. (Local One has rejected this offer.)
Rehearsals and Work Calls
Currently stagehands called in for a four-hour minimum call can only perform work specific to that type of call. For example, a crew member called in for a rehearsal call cannot be required to do maintenance work -- fixing lights or maintaining scenery. Such work would require an additional work call. The League states that they will now require that stagehands perform any work necessary, within departmental lines, on a production while they are being paid, regardless of the type of call. (Local One has rejected this offer.)
During the performance of a show, there are strict rules regarding what can be required of a crew member. The Union has agreed to allow "work on equipment and related items for promotion and publicity." The League also proposed that stagehands should be permitted to clean up the set, the show's equipment and repair any problems that occurred during the performance. Should the work require more time than the actual running time of the show, crew members would be paid in one-hour increments. Local One agreed to a two-hour minimum call solely to permit clean up for safety reasons.
In the previous Local One contract, stagehands may be called one hour prior to a performance (solely for work related to that performance), or for one hour after the performance, but never both, unless producers schedule an additional four-hour call. Producers now intend to schedule and pay for work up to three hours around any given performance, limited to two hours prior and one hour after. This does not include clean up, which may require two hours. The previous union contract also said that if a show ending at 10:25 pm necessitates additional work, the call-time rolls back to 10 pm, requiring producers to pay for an additional hour's work. And, if more time is needed, the call becomes a four-hour call. The League has eliminated this rule, which Local One rejected.
Currently, when a scheduled performance of a show is canceled and replaced by a rehearsal or a work call, stagehands are required to be paid for both the canceled performance and the rehearsal/work call. The League will now not pay stagehands twice for the same hours. (The Union has rejected this proposal.)
What's particularly significant about the return to the negotiating table will be the presence of IATSE's Tom Short, since Local One cannot strike without the parent union's authorization. A representative of IATSE must also be present during at least one stage of the negotiations in order for a strike to be formally sanctioned.
The earliest that most expect a strike to occur would be during the very busy and extremely lucrative Thanksgiving weekend. That's when Local One's leverage would be greatest. As I've said before, The League would be out of its mind to see its theatres go dark during such a traditionally profitable time.
Even though Local One's members authorized a strike, it has sought the upper hand in the PR war. Two days after The League began imposing portions of its offer, Local One President James Claffey, Jr. commended the stagehands for continuing to work in spite of the rules, which he said were "a tactic to frustrate, embarrass and provoke (the stagehands union) into taking action against (The League) in an effort to gain the public support." He also encouraged the stagehands to obey them to "convince our co-workers and the public that this Union did all we could for a reasonable period of time before we were pushed and shoved into defending our families and ourselves."
My last take on this was that the onus was on The League to get back to the table. Now that The League will be returning, I'm hoping that the two sides can bargain in good faith. I'll keep you posted as further developments progress.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Now That The Union Has Spoken... (October 22, 2007)
It's Unanimous! (October 20, 2007)
D-Day Indeed (October 21, 2007)
$5 Million Per Day (October 19, 2007)
Nederlanders: On Their Own Again? (October 18, 2007)
The Broadway Theatres Not Impacted By Labor Dispute (October 17, 2007)
Bloomberg Appears Ready To Step Into Fray (October 16, 2007)
If You're Holding Tix For Broadway This Week, You're Safe (October 15, 2007)
Stagehands To Vote On Strike...October 21 (October 12, 2007)
The Shows Must Go On...At Least Over Weekend (October 12, 2007)
Still No Lockout (October 12, 2007)
No Lockout Tonight (October 11, 2007)
Lockout Likely (October 10, 2007)
Is This The One For One? (October 9, 2007)
Stagehands' Union Concedes Key Point (October 5, 2007)
Stagehands Talks To Continue This Afternoon (October 5, 2007)
No Monday Lockout (September 29, 2007)
Before The Holidays Strike? (September 25, 2007)
Thanks, Mel! (July 6, 2007)