paul fleming 2

Source: Ellie Calnan

Paul Fleming (centre) at a London rally in support of SAG-AFTRA in Juy.

Equity’s general secretary Paul Fleming says ongoing disruption to film and TV production in the UK is “necessary” to help with UK unions’ own negotiations with studios and producers.

“What we’re seeing is that the longer the dispute goes on, the deeper it will go and the more intractable it will go and the more the UK industry will go cold,” Fleming said. “That is necessary in order to ensure that we are in the strongest possible position to win, as big as SAG-AFTRA is going to win, with our own negotiations through the coming months.”

He was speaking on a webinar on Monday night (August 21) that brought together members of the UK’s Bectu (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre) unio and Equity members with SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland to update on the US actors’ strike that is having a huge impact on UK production. 

Fleming warned a strike in the UK with PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television) “may well” happen within the 12 months if onoing UK negotiations around pay, the use of Artifical Intelligence (AI) and other similar issues to the ones over which US actors are striking are not successful.

“Those agreements are as strong as SAG-AFTRA agreements. And what we need to see is that any deal that SAG-AFTRA gets is reflected into the quality of our terms or conditions, that’s pressure on us,” said Fleming. ”Our position and our own bargaining, which will start towards the end of this year or the beginning of next year, is essentially hardened because of the position of global producers and our desire and our need to win is higher because of it.

“That means that there may be ongoing disruption as time goes by. There’s a real incentive for the AMPTP (Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers) and indeed, British producers, British arms of American producers, global producers, to put more pressure on so as the industrial unrest does not spread this side of the Atlantic on our agreements through our negotiations.”

No recasting 

Fleming addressed the provisions being put in place to ensure UK actors are not being used as “a workaround” to the SAG-AFTRA strike.

“What we will not tolerate is jobs being recast when they have previously been offered to American artists, with British artists, even if they are on our agreements. And we’re policing that very, very militantly,” Fleming said.

“We are prepared, and it’s entirely possible for us to enter into our own individual trade disputes with individual productions, where we believe that they are attempting to avoid the industrial action in the United States.” 

Fleming stressed that there won’t be an influx of work coming in as a result of this militancy and that Equity and Bectu will be closely monitoring productions that change schedules to accommodate the strikes. 

“We’ve already had a few instances where we’ve seen our members being asked to cover for work that may have been shot elsewhere or may well have been an American artist’s job,” he said.

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure that that does not impact and indeed impact on people’s health and safety at work. In particular, where pressure’s being put on to meet unreasonable deadlines. We’re taking that as a very clear position with our members.”

“We see you are hurting”

SAG-AFTRA’s Crabtree-Ireland showed his appreciation for the UK’s solidarity while acknowledging the economic hardships that have been faced by crew members working on US productions in the UK. 

“I want to acknowledge that the writers’ strike and our strike have had significant economic consequences on people. And I know, that includes crew members and people who aren’t themselves specifically part of these units that are on strike, but whose work opportunities have been affected, whose livelihoods have been affected,” he said to the more than 500 Equity and Bectu members listening to the webinar. “And I just want to make sure you all know that we see that our members are hurting, and we know your members and others are hurting in this industry as well.

“But we also want to say that the only reason these strikes are happening is because these companies refused to make a fair and respectful deal with our members. And you know there was no need for there to be a strike called.”