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Hollywood drivers, studios reach contract agreement

Hollywood drivers on Sunday accepted a proposed contract from the studios, averting a strike that could have caused widespread disruptions to film and TV production across the country.

The vote came after last-minute negotiations Saturday yielded a compromise that mollified leaders of Teamsters Local 399, who were prepared to seek a strike authorization vote from members.

Both sides had been in a standoff over pay rates for more than 3,000 drivers who deliver equipment and stars to sets and on-location film and television sites.

The studios offered an increase in health-plan contributions and a proposed 2% annual pay increase for drivers. Teamsters wanted a 3% increase, the same rate achieved by other unions, including the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, a rival labor organization.

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The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargained on behalf of the studios, rejected the demand, citing the weak economy, which had buffeted DVD sales and forced employee layoffs.

On Saturday, however, the studios offered additional incentives to the Teamsters, including adding travel pay for certain types of drivers.

The dispute came at a delicate time for the studios, which are gearing up for labor negotiations this fall with Hollywood’s actors and later writers, whose contracts expire in 2011.

It was also unusual because the Teamsters, a blue-collar union whose members also represent location managers and casting directors, generally stay below the radar and rarely engage in public standoffs with the studios, with which they’ve generally enjoyed a stable relationship over the last two decades. Teamsters last struck for 24 days in 1988.

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Although Teamsters openly supported writers during their strike in 2007-08, the union has worked closely with studios on legislative issues when their interests align, such as support for California’s film tax incentives and the proposed merger between Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal.

richard.verrier@latimes.com


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