The Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance and the Walt Disney Studios are finalising a landmark deal for the crew who will work on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Caption Nemo.

The agreement will be registered with Fair Work Australia, which will make the pay rates and conditions enforceable under federal laws.

The union says it will seek to have all Australian films covered by enforceable agreements.

“There has long been a gentleman’s agreement” on abiding by negotiated terms, Malcolm Tulloch, director of the entertainment crew and sport section of the Alliance, told IF.

“We want to change to agreements that are enforceable. Otherwise we will see the continued erosion of pay and conditions; there is no floor. We do not want to see a race to the bottom.”

Members of the MEAA narrowly voted to accept a deal put forward by Disney for the 20,000 Leagues remake in April. That granted concessions include paying crews double time after a 12-hour day instead of the standard 10 hours for Australian productions; triple time after 15 hours (usually 12 hours); on-set crew forgoing all night loadings; and non-shooting crew accepting a 10-20% night loading.

The Alliance sought to renegotiate that agreement with Disney’s Australian representative on the film, Fox Production Services.

“We said the rates do not meet the Fair Work Australia Better Off Overall Test,“ said Tulloch. This specifies that anyone employed under a proposed enterprise agreement must be better off than if covered by the relevant Australian award.

Tulloch said the new deal will improve the pay rates for the lowest paid technicians, incorporating the 2.6% minimum wage increase that came into effect on July 1.

He said Disney is proposing a two-year deal- the film is due to start shooting in 2014- so the union is seeking a 3% increase from next July. Technicians will be able to negotiate much higher pay rates than the minimums specified in the agreement, he added.

The MEAA is getting ready to negotiate a new motion picture production agreement with the Screen Producers Association of Australia, proposing a tiered arrangement for big budget, medium and low budgeted films.

The Alliance is surveying its membership and drawing up a log of claims to present to SPAA. It will seek to register that agreement with Fair Work Australia, which will make it legally enforceable.

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