[Updated]Hollywood Teamsters approve labor contract

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An on-location set for the filming of a movie by a major studio is filled with truckloads of equipment on November 18, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. File photo.

BURBANK - Teamsters union members agreed that it is a terrible time to start a strike, and overwhelmingly approved a new labor contract that preserves Hollywood labor peace, it was reported today.

Variety and the Los Angeles Times reported on their web sites that the drivers approved an offer from producers that includes a 2 percent pay hike, and increased contributions from the workers towards their health insurance costs.

Variety reported that the Teamsters approved the contract offer with a 97 percent yes vote from the 1,000 brothers and sisters present at a Sunday meeting. The union represents 3,200 truck drivers and workers at major studios owned by the large entertainment companies.

Union leaders had asked for a 3 percent pay hike, but recommended the 2 percent solution when the studios tossed in some meal pay and medical card reimbursement concessions, Variety reported.

Teamsters Local 399, which represents drivers, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the major studios, have been negotiating for a new "Black Book'' contract.

The main issue has been pay raises for more than 3,000 Teamsters drivers.

At a membership meeting in Burbank today, the drivers voted on whether to authorize a strike, which would enable Teamster bosses to order a walkout after its three-year contract expires Aug. 1.

The drivers could've continued to work without a contract while talks continued.

The last time the Teamsters struck in Hollywood was in 1988. They stayed away from work for 24 days in a dispute over pay and changes in overtime rules, the Times reported.

Writers went on strike for 100 days in 2007-08, and the Screen Actors Guild had a yearlong dispute with the studios, hindering productions.

A Teamster strike would stop production, but could create disruptions because films and television shows need drivers to deliver equipment to studios and shooting locations.

Studios have contingency plans to film more on lots, shift more productions to Canada and hire replacement drivers, the Times reported.

The Teamsters want a 3 percent raise, the same amount workers represented by IATSE got in their latest contract.

Studio executives said the IATSE contract was negotiated in the spring of 2008, before the recession. They have argued that other unions, including the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, accepted 2 percent raises in recent agreements.

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