Teamster upset with film companiesA disgruntled Teamsters...


Teamster upset with film companies

A disgruntled Teamsters truck driver is causing jitters in Maryland's film world.

Salvatore Maffei, a New Yorker who attended Towson State University, has filed unfair labor practice charges against two recent productions -- including Barry Levinson's "Homicide" television series -- for not hiring him as a truck driver.

Neither Mr. Levinson nor officials for the other film company, Meteor Man Productions, of Los Angeles, would comment on the pending National Labor Relations Board investigations.

But others say Mr. Maffei's charges are unusual in Baltimore, known for its comparatively receptive unions for the movie business.

"I'm finding this a great town to make a movie in," said Jonathan Filley, production manager for "Guarding Tess," which is being shot here now.

And some fear the charges will discourage producers from making movies here in the future.

"Producers like to go into a town where everybody rises up to greet them, not where people throw rocks at them," said Scott Harbinson, Baltimore representative for the International Alliance of Theatre and Stage Employees.

Mr. Maffei, who lives in New York but comes here to work on films, says he didn't want to file the charges, but felt he was being unfairly denied lucrative driving jobs.

Truck drivers on movie sets work long and hard -- up to 14 hours a day, six days a week -- but can make as much as $1,600 a week, he said.

Teamsters attorney Barry Frame said Mr. Maffei was "released" from several previous movie jobs because of accidents. The Teamsters settled Mr. Maffei's charges that the union unfairly discriminated against him by agreeing to hire him on future films because the case "wasn't worth litigating," Mr. Frame said.

Mr. Maffei acknowledged having an accident on one production, and getting stuck in the mud at another shoot. But he said he still is being denied jobs because of a "misunderstanding" between himself and Teamsters officials who decide who gets driving work and other lucrative perks, such as the right to rent cars to producers.

"I don't want what happened to New York to happen to Baltimore," he said. "New Yorkers pushed too far, and now no one makes movies in New York. New York is dead."

Health care costs rising faster in Md.

The cost of providing health care to workers is rising faster in the Maryland-Washington area than nationally.

In this area, providing health benefits cost the average employer nearly $4,379 per employee, a 14 percent increase over 1991, according to a survey by Foster Higgins, a New York-based benefits consultant.

Nationally, providing health benefits cost the average employer $3,968 per worker last year, up 10 percent from 1991 and double the 1987 cost.

Traditional insurance costs rose fastest, jumping 14.2 percent to reach $4,080 per employee in 1992. Alternatives such as HMOs rose less steeply, though.

One bit of good news: The rate of increase in employers' costs slowed a bit last year.

Bid to protect pension funds may be costly

Stephanie Altbier's effort to protect her retirement money may cost her thousands of dollars in unemployment insurance benefits.

But the laid-off Silver Spring fund-raiser could spark an important reform of eligibility rules that will protect other unemployed Marylanders from the same fate.

Ms. Altbier told Maryland's House Economic Matters committee on Wednesday that when she was laid off from a charity in October, her employer gave her the money accumulated in her pension fund.

The 40-year-old woman wanted to protect her retirement, so she immediately rolled over the $10,000 into an individual retirement account.

But when she told the unemployment insurance fund what she had done, the state sent her a cutoff notice and a bill for more than $1,500 to recoup benefits it said the pension money made her ineligible for.

When she got the bill and notice, "I was hysterical," she said, and filed an appeal. She's still fighting the decision.

Her husband ran into Del. Dana Dembrow, D-Montgomery, in a grocery store and explained their problem.

Mr. Dembrow agreed to try changing the law so that receiving pension funds wouldn't disqualify Marylanders from unemployment benefits.

State unemployment officials have endorsed Mr. Dembrow's bill, saying they would go along with it as long as those who receive pension funds provide proof that the money was rolled over into another retirement account such as an IRA.

Wage increases stay about the same

Wage increases continued to moderate in the final quarter of 1992.

The U.S. Department of Labor's report on the most recent collective bargaining settlements found that on average, workers agreed to raises of 3.2 percent for the next three years.

The latest settlements replace 1989 contracts that called for 3.8 percent annual raises.

Continuing past trends, big employers paid best, granting annual raises averaging 3.6 percent.

And among industries, service companies led the pack, giving raises averaging 3.8 percent, while manufacturers averaged raises of 2.5 percent a year.

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