Hollywood workers vote in favour of authorising a strike, demanding better working conditions and fair salaries from the film and streaming sector.

More than 50,000 members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) which represents camera operators, make-up artists and other behind-the-scenes workers on Hollywood films and television cast ballots, and more than 98 percent voted in favour of authorising strike.

IATSE said on Monday if they cannot reach an agreement with content producers on a new contract, they will go on strike – which is expected to hit the film and TV sector.

The workers who have been working for long hours under hard working conditions, without a guarantee for rest or meal breaks, demand better working conditions.

The working hours can stretch to about 14 hours a day as the demand for TV shows and films has increased, particularly for streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+ and Amazon Video.

IATSE also wants raises for workers on streaming projects, who get paid less than for work on mainstream and cable TV shows under an agreement signed in 2009, when streaming and online media was in its infancy.

Thomas Pieczkolon, a sound mixer working on a $300 million project for a streaming service, said his hours are insane during the protest in Los Angeles. 

His friend Jade Thompson, a costume dresser working on a show, said that she fell asleep while driving home.

"I nodded off and then came to and drifted off to the side and had a panic attack," Thompson said. "It wasn't even the end of the week! It was a Monday."

“The members have spoken loud and clear,”  IATSE President Matthew Loeb said in a statement.

“This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry. Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage.”

The vote strengthened the hand of IATSE leaders which last month walked away from a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

The two sides are expected to meet on Tuesday – their first contact in two weeks – a union source said after the results of the ballot were announced. 

It was not clear whether the meeting would lead to a full resumption of talks.

"If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer," Loeb said.

The AMPTP said in a statement it was "committed to reaching an agreement that will keep the industry working" but said it would require both parties showing "a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions."

The deal would have improved wages and rest periods, the Alliance said, and included a nearly $400m pension and health plan. 

The AMPTP offered to increase resting hours and wages for crew members working on streaming shows, but the rates would still be below mainstream productions.

IATSE has won the support of powerful Hollywood unions representing actors, directors and writers. Actors Ben Stiller, Danny DeVito, Brie Larson, Seth Rogen and Kevin Bacon are among those who have sent messages supporting its demands.

“I just spent 9 months working with an incredibly hard working crew of film makers through very challenging conditions. Totally support them in fighting for better conditions,”Ben Stiller said on his Twitter account.

The last major strike in Hollywood was by film and television screenwriters in late 2007 and early 2008. It lasted three months and shut down all scripted shows and forced television networks to air re-runs of comedies and dramas.

Source: TRT World