Employment reform negotiations end in stalemate with union poised to set new rate cards.
Employment reform negotiations between UK entertainment union BECTU and production trade body Pact have ended in stalemate with union BECTU now set to outline new pay rates for its members working on US productions and productions in receipt of the UK tax break from June.
The three-year talks, aimed at updating pay rates and terms of employment for crew, have ended without a common agreement and with both sides accusing the other of irresponsibility.
Union BECTU - which comprises 26,000 members - now intends to send producers a new set of union rate cards for its members that will apply to all new productions that qualify for the UK tax break beginning after June 1.
One of the key stumbling blocks between the parties was the number of UK productions whose crew would be guaranteed the going rate, with BECTU calling for a larger number of productions - beyond the Hollywood tentpoles - to guarantee going rates.
The talks also aimed at setting out clearer guidelines around working hours, overtime, turnaround, break time and compensation.
Pact has warned that the union’s decision not to accept its proposals could drive production away from the UK.
Pact chief executive, John McVay, said: “We are bitterly disappointed in this decision by BECTU to walk away from the negotiations. It is a tragedy that this is a short term position by the union with no consideration for long term sustainable film production in the UK. They have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory”.
BECTU countered that the suggestion of productions being driven away from the UK was ‘scaremongering’ and that there ‘exists a genuine discontent in the UK production workforce around pay and working conditions,” pointing to an increase in membership from crew eager to form new branches.
BECTU also stressed its desire for productions to pay the living wage rather than the minimum wage to all crew, including runners: “Production companies have benefitted from millions of pounds of tax breaks in this country and some actors get paid millions of pounds but those companies have given little back to their workforces,” BECTU General Secretary Gerry Morrissey told Screen.
“All crew deserve a living wage,” he continued. “From June all departments will get paid an appropriate amount for what they do. These rates will bring certainty to producers. The last thing UK and US producers want is uncertainty.”
McVay added: “If members and non-members of BECTU are bullied, harassed and intimidated into accepting rates imposed without consultation, Pact will provide legal advice to employers to ensure that their employees do not suffer from that kind of behaviour”.
BECTU again countered that it was not aware of any workplace bullying or harassment and advised Pact to report any such instances to the police.