What is the IATSE union strike and how will it affect TV and film?

The IATSE union strike would be the biggest Hollywood strike since the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike.

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Crystal Kan, a storyboard artist, draws pro-labor signs on cars of union members during a rally at the Motion Picture Editors Guild IATSE Local 700 on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. Up to 60,000 members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) might go on strike in the coming weeks over issues of long working hours, unsafe conditions, less pay from streaming companies and demand for better benefits. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Almost all film and TV productions have suffered delays as a result of the pandemic – and they may just be delayed even further by a potential upcoming strike.

Advertisement

Hollywood crew workers’ union IATSE has voted to authorise a strike for better wages and working conditions, which could see 60,000 crew members walk off set if an agreement is not reached soon.

The last big Hollywood strike – the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike – had a notable effect on the film and TV industry, with shortened seasons, incomplete scripts and a rush to fill US schedules with game shows and reality TV.

While the effect won’t be quite so dramatic here in the UK, it could mean a reduced episode count of hit US shows – and in the age of streaming, may see entire seasons and films delayed by months.

Here’s everything you need to know about the IATSE union strike, and how this could impact your bingeing plans.

What is the IATSE union strike?

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees’ (IATSE) was founded in 1893, and represents over 150,000 technicians, artists, and craftspersons in the entertainment industry.

Since July IATSE has been negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on a new contract as the previous Producer-IATSE Basic Agreement has now expired.

However on 21st September 2021 IATSE posted a statement on their website claiming that negotiations had stalled as the AMPTP had failed to address “the most grievous problems in their workplaces” such as unsafe working hours, unlivable wages, a lack of reasonable rest periods and a pay gap for those on streaming projects.

AMPTP responded by stating: “The AMPTP put forth a deal-closing comprehensive proposal that meaningfully addresses the IATSE’s key bargaining issues.… In choosing to leave the bargaining table to seek a strike authorization vote, the IATSE leadership walked away from a generous comprehensive package.”

Many celebrities have spoken in spoken up in support of IATSE workers, including Jane Fonda, Katherine Heigl and Mindy Kaling.

Following the stalling of negotiations, from 1st to 3rd October 2021 the union voted on whether to authorise a strike, and on 4th October it was revealed that a whopping 98 per cent of IATSE members approved a nationwide strike against film and TV productions.

However reps for AMPTP stated that the organisation “remains committed to reaching an agreement”, and there is still a chance to avoid strike action if an agreement is reached in the coming days – after all,  IATSE president Matthew D. Loeb recently tweeted: “Our goal is not to strike. Our goal is a fair deal.”

However if an agreement cannot be reached in the coming days with this new leverage, then Loeb now has the authority to call a strike.

How will the IATSE strike affect TV and film?

First things first – the IATSE strike would only disrupt productions across North America, meaning that the mostly British-produced programming on UK channels would be unaffected.

Secondly, not every Hollywood production would be affected as premium cable networks such as HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, BET have separate contracts with IATSE that don’t expire until 2022 according to Deadline. Therefore, long-awaited shows such as House of the Dragon and Billions season 6 can continue production unaffected.

However, shows produced by other networks and studios will be disrupted and delayed – which includes the US-heavy output of shows on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

“[A strike] could affect the general public in that they may not have as much content to view in the future,” entertainment labour lawyer Alan Brunswick told Business Insider. “It could slow down production of motion pictures and television shows, and that includes shows that will be on digital services like Amazon or Netflix.”

A strike would see 60,000 crew members walk off set, ranging from set designers to camera operators to editors – meaning all stages of production would be affected.

Shows with a fast turnaround – such as talk shows and soap operas – will be the first to be affected, with the effect on scripted TV and film felt later. This will be felt more in the US, where networks may have to air repeats or imports if their usual programming can’t be produced.

However global hit shows such as Stranger Things and The Crown could face even more delays following the pandemic, while films such as the meticulously crafted and inter-connected Marvel Cinematic Universe may be affected also.

It is difficult to say how long exactly such projects would be delayed, as this depends largely on the length of the strike. The 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike lasted for 100 days, and memorably saw hit shows such as House M.D., The Office US and Grey’s Anatomy receive shortened seasons.

However films and TV shows can work around strike limitations, either by hiring from the admittedly smaller pool of non-union crew members, or outsourcing production abroad outside of the US.

This is not feasible for all projects, but may help limit any potential delays – however, it is unlikely productions will reach full speed again until the strike ends.

Advertisement

Looking for something else to watch? Plan your viewing with our TV Guide.