IATSE wins Quebec coin toss

Luck of the draw hands five out of six big-budget movies to IATSE following its short-term cease-fire with cross-town rival, the AQTIS

MONTREAL — Members of IATSE and AQTIS have ratified a short-term agreement that both ends their long-running dispute and clears the way for big-budget American productions to get rolling in la belle province this spring and summer, though most will be crewed by IATSE.

On Thursday evening, more than 550 members of AQTIS voted 99% in favor of the temporary agreement, the fruit of emergency negotiations between the Quebec union and its rival, U.S.-based IATSE. IATSE also ratified the deal.

Both unions have been involved in a protracted battle – over which had the right to represent Quebec film technicians – that has scared many large shoots away from the province. The province stepped in late last month, putting negotiator Gilles Charland to work on brokering an agreement.

‘This agreement doesn’t create a precedent. It’s temporary,’ cautions AQTIS spokeswoman Brunhilde Pradier. ‘The laws still have to change so there won’t be any more arguments.’

The agreement has worked out far better for IATSE, which has netted the rights to rep workers on five big-budget productions en route to Montreal: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Mummy 3, Death Race 3000, The Pink Panther 2 and Whiteout.

AQTIS — which has argued that it alone has the legal right to work on American films — gets only one, Dead Zone.

That’s because the unions divided up projects that were eyeing Quebec before any of them had been confirmed. AQ had the poor luck of picking only one of the titles that settled in the province, while IA picked five.

Pradier admits to being slightly ‘disappointed’ by the deal because it means many of AQTIS’s 2,600 technicians will have to become members of IATSE in order to work this summer.

‘It’s a bit hard to take that their dues will go to IATSE,’ she says. IATSE did not return calls for comment on this story.

Pradier hopes that a long-term solution will be worked out over the next few months with the help of the government-appointed working group. Changes to the Quebec labor code as well as the law governing the status of artists are also necessary, says Pradier. ‘We don’t want IATSE to be the de facto union on these American shoots. We want to leave the door open.’

Both unions are to sit down with the government working group in the next few weeks.

Productions that aren’t on the list the unions divided up this week will be studied on a case-by-base basis by the government working group, says Pradier.

As a result of the deal, both sides have withdrawn their cases from the Quebec labor board.