Union Recognition in an Industry with Precarious Short Term Contracts
One of the biggest obstacles to achieving union recognition for many workers in the film business is the rolling project based contract. As the majority of the main workforce for visual effects are not a full time employees, but on project based freelance contracts, it is normal to see VFX house grow and shrink with demand based needs. This usually means that Visual Effects personal change jobs far more frequently than other industries and thus union workers numbers shift between different visual effects companies.
While initially it may seem more challenging to achieve union recognition with workers constantly being released and rehired; ultimately being in a union would actually be far more helpful in this situation than you might think. With union negotiations it would be more likely that contracts would be more consistent. For instance sick pay might be regulated for all union contracts no matter where the union employee works. That means company A can’t you make you wait a year to qualify for sick pay, while company B allows for sick pay after 3 months. The union could also negotiate for consecutive benefits, which means if company A doesn’t have work for 3 months and an employee goes to company B during the down time and then returns to company A as a rehire, that employee shouldn’t have to start from scratch to elect benefits and undergo another 3 month probationary period.
So how would the union achieve this? Well obviously the end goal would be similar to other Hollywood Unions and have the majority of the work force unionised, so it wouldn’t matter where an employee works, their union contracts and benefits could go with them. The most important thing is to stay in the union even if you change jobs. Even for non union shops, the union is beneficial to it’s members right away (see last week’s blog post). At union shops, even nonmembers receive better working conditions and pay than non union shops.
Secondly is to open the discussion with other industry professionals about what improvements they’d like to see and how they could have a voice. At the end of the day it’s the membership that will decide what progress is most beneficial and would lead them to have more fulfilling job satisfaction and working conditions.
Thirdly is to be aware that BECTU has a good sized membership already that work at nearly every company in London. At the major studios and a lot of the smaller ones, members are not alone in their membership and it just might surprise you how many other members there are.
That said, this exactly why BECTU has to approach recognition at the right time to achieve the best results on their bids. Even if BECTU has the numbers, there has been precedent from other bids where-in companies unethically release enough workers through ending contracts in bid squashing attempts. As the majority of us are on short-term contracts this is something we must look out for and draw attention to when companies take this bullying tactic. Remember, we stand together.
BECTU wants to make sure we achieve the best results for everyone, including working symbiotically with the VFX companies.
Are you worried about union recognition on short term contracts? Want to have your say? Please come to our weekly lunch meet-up where we will be discussing this topic this week. Also please take our new poll below! We want to hear from you.
We will be meeting this Thursday March 3 1:00 – 2:00 pm @ Kingley Ct, Carnaby St.
Look for the green flag