A new agreement covering major motion pictures production was decisively voted for by BECTU members in November 2017. It is the first of its kind in the UK and was implemented on 2 April 2018. The agreement has been welcomed across the industry and is the result of a successful partnership between union reps, producers and employers’ associations.
Below are some of the highlights. The full agreement is available for download from the BECTU website.
Please note that the agreement only applies to workers employed directly by the production companies, therefore not employees of VFX facilities, although this can change if enough VFX workers join the union and ask for it.
1.2 This Agreement will apply to all crew members engaged on Major Motion Pictures that commence principal photography after Monday 2 April 2018.
1.3 For the purposes of this Agreement, a Major Motion Picture shall mean a feature film intended for initial cinematic exhibition with a production budget equal to or in excess of £30,000,000 (Thirty Million Pounds Sterling) (the Major Picture Threshold).
2. The Working Day and the Working Week
2.1 The Standard Working Week
The Standard Working Week is a 55 hour 5 day work week. This can be varied by the producer upon payment of overtime and other premiums as set out in this Agreement, with the understanding that all overtime is voluntary.
2.2 The Working Day – All crew during pre-production and non-shooting crew during principal photography
Outside the period of principal photography and/or for non-shooting crew members, the standard working day comprises 11 hours worked with 1 hour for lunch (the Standard Working Day or SWD).
(b) Post Production Crew: Post Production crew members will follow the Standard Working Week and the Standard Working Day applicable to non-shooting crew and will be entitled to Non-Camera Overtime, if applicable, in accordance with Section 3.3(a)(ii), but shall not be entitled to Camera Overtime. Start times will be the times at which each crew member starts work, which will not necessarily be the same as Unit Call times for the Post Production Department.
Lunch breaks may be ‘staggered’ under the direction of the 1st Assistant Editor or Post Production Supervisor in co-ordination with production, and post-production crew members will be expected to manage their own time in order to take their breaks. Lunch break penalties shall not apply.
3. Working Outside the Normal Working Day – Overtime
3.2 Prep and Wrap
(a) Specific Departments: For the following departments, the crew member’s rate is deemed to include, in addition to the 55 hours worked, up to 30 minutes at the beginning and 30 minutes at the end of each day, if required and in accordance with current working practices, without any overtime being due:
– Hair and Make-up
– Script Supervisor
3.3 Overtime Rates
(a) For the purposes of calculating overtime, the crew member’s hourly rate is deemed to be his/her contractual weekly rate divided by 55 (Hourly Rate), or for daily crew members, his/her contractual daily rate divided by 11 (save for Rigging Electricians whose rates are as per clause 2.2(a)). Overtime will be calculated at either the Hourly Rate multiplied by 1.5 (1.5T) or the Hourly Rate multiplied by 2 (2T), depending on whether overtime comprises Camera Overtime or Non Camera Overtime (see subsections 3.3(a)(i) and (ii) below). The attached Appendix details examples of overtime rates.
(ii) Non-Camera Overtime including pre calls and de-rigs is paid at 1.5T for any overtime, payable in 30 minutes increments (and pro-rated accordingly for partial hours) and subject always to the Maximum Overtime Rate and the prep and wrap provisions of clause 3.2.
(c) For all crew members, the overtime rate may be no more than £81.82 per hour (Maximum Overtime Rate). For the avoidance of doubt the Maximum Overtime Rate shall apply to all hourly rates uplifted hereunder including in relation to 6th and 7th days, Bank Holidays and Broken Turnaround.
4. Working Outside the Normal Working Week – 6th and 7th Days
4.1 6th Days
(a) Any 6th consecutive day or night worked will be paid at 1.5T for actual hours worked, with a minimum guarantee of 6 hours for non-shooting crew and 8 hours for shooting crew.
4.2 7th Days
(a) Any 7th consecutive day worked will be paid at 2T for actual hours worked, with a minimum guarantee of 6 hours for non-shooting crew and 8 hours for shooting crew.
4.3 For the avoidance of doubt:
(a) Saturdays and Sundays shall not be paid as a premium day unless they are consecutive 6th or 7th days worked; and
(b) all hourly rates for 6th and 7th days are subject to the Minimum Camera Overtime Rate and capped at the Maximum Overtime Rate.
5.3 Broken Turnarounds
Producers should endeavour to give crew members eleven hours’ turnaround between the individual crew member’s wrap to his/her call (Turnaround Period). In the event of any shorter period of turnaround:
(a) the producer should wherever possible allow the crew member to take an equivalent period of compensatory rest, and shall in any event afford the crew member such protection as may be appropriate in order to safeguard the crew member’s health and safety; and
(b) in the event that a crew member is required to work during the Turnaround Period (Broken Turnaround) the crew member should be paid at 1.5T for any such time, which payment should accrue in 30 minute increments (and shall be pro-rated accordingly), subject to an overall cap of £45 per hour (or £22.50 per 30 minute increment).
5.4 Meal Breaks
(a) Standard Working Day (SWD): During principal photography crew members should be generally entitled to take their lunch break no later than 6 hours after unit call.
If non-shooting crew are asked by the producers to shorten their lunch break from one hour, then infringed time will be paid in 30 minute increments at 1.5T.
For the avoidance of doubt the Head of Department for non-shooting crew should manage their department so that crew members are able to take their lunch break (save as where requested above). In the event that such Head of Department wishes to curtail or delay the lunch break of crew members, prior approval must be sought from the Unit Production Manager, and the penalties above will apply.
5.6 Bank Holidays
(a) Where a crew member is contracted by the producer to work over a period which includes a United Kingdom official public holiday or foreign official public holiday where work takes place abroad (Bank Holiday), but the crew member is not actually required to work on that Bank Holiday, the crew member will be entitled to receive his/her daily fee for that Bank Holiday.
(b) If a crew member is required to work on a Bank Holiday, the crew member will be entitled to be paid at 2T during such Bank Holiday, whether the crew member is working on a weekly or longer term basis or is engaged as a daily.
Visual Effects… We love what we do. We work long hours putting in hundreds, even thousands of extra hours of unpaid overtime year after year. We are hired on short term contracts with no job security, never knowing for sure where we’ll be working next year (let alone next month!). We are treated like a disposable resource, dropped – without a thought to loyalty – the instant a project finishes when we should be seen as talented and experienced professionals who add value to the facility and are worth retaining. We are the professionals who make the billion dollar blockbusters possible! Our sick pay, pensions, training and other benefits are a disorganised mess because facilities either can’t or won’t invest more than the bare legal minimum in their workforce – and yet, we all still consider ourselves lucky to be working on these cool projects!
Well, it’s true. We are lucky. We do wonderful work that we all love. Not everybody loves their jobs out there in the “real world”, but I’ve never met a single visual effects artist who doesn’t get immense joy from their creative process and I don’t know any who do not take great pride in their work. The truth is, most of us can’t wait to get back in to work on a Monday. We really love what we do – and because of that, we allow ourselves to get exploited.
There is no ignoring the fact that the rest of the film industry is heavily unionised. Why can’t visual effects be unionised too? To all of you who are already members of the VFX Union, bravo! You get it! You love what you do, but you know there is much still to be done to make visual effects a stronger and more ethical industry. Well done you!
For those of you sitting on the fence or even those who are actually against unionisation, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Things are good and getting better for other unionised branches of the film industry. Ask any writer, actor, cinematographer, director, producer – all of them are union members and they all value what unions do for them. None would tell you they think the unions are bad for the film industry.
Meanwhile back in the non-union sector of the film industry, things are not getting better for either the visual effects artists or the vfx facilities. There are ups and downs, good years and bad years but in general, things are getting a bit worse over time for everyone. We are all in a race to the bottom that only an organised workforce can fix. No one can fix this on their own. We need to join together and unionise for the good of our industry now and to ensure its future prosperity.
Join the VFX Union today at bectu.org.uk/join
Building and growing a union isn’t easy, in fact, there are times it can wear us all out. When it feels like it’s all a bit much, then that’s about the time we all need to find a little inspiration to keep that fire lit. What better way to find that inspiration than in the medium we all know and love: Cinema! These are ten wonderful movies – old and new – with stories that revolve around things like political activism and unionisation. The way these films tell their stories is unique and powerful. They may be, for the most part, light on visual effects but they are most definitely heavy on inspiration!
How many have you seen? Do you think we’ve missed any that should be in our list?
Director: Sarah Gavron
Writer: Abi Morgan
In 1912 London, a young working mother is galvanized into radical political activism supporting the right for women to vote, and is willing to meet violence with violence to achieve this end.
The Front (1976)
Director: Martin Ritt
Writer: Walter Bernstein
In 1953, a cashier poses as a writer for blacklisted talents to submit their work through, but the injustice around him pushes him to take a stand.
I’m All Right Jack (1959)
Director: John Boulting
Writers: Alan Hackney (novel), Frank Harvey (screenplay)
A naive aristocrat in search of a career becomes caught up in the struggles between his profit-minded uncle and an aggressive labour union.
Made in Dagenham (2010)
Director: Nigel Cole
Writer: William Ivory
A dramatisation of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination.
Bread and Roses (2000)
Director: Ken Loach
Writer: Paul Laverty (screenplay)
Two Latina sisters work as cleaners in a downtown office building, and fight for the right to unionise.
Roger & Me (1989)
Director: Michael Moore
Writer: Michael Moore
Director Michael Moore pursues GM CEO Roger B. Smith to confront him about the harm he did to Flint, Michigan with his massive downsizing.
Director: Matthew Warchus
Writer: Stephen Beresford (screenplay by)
U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.
Norma Rae (1979)
Director: Martin Ritt
Writers: Irving Ravetch (screenplay), Harriet Frank Jr. (screenplay)
A young single mother and textile worker agrees to help unionize her mill despite the problems and dangers involved.
Brassed Off (1996)
Director: Mark Herman
Writer: Mark Herman
The coal mine in a northern English village may be closing, which would also mean the end of the miners’ brass band.
Director: Jay Roach
Writers: John McNamara, Bruce Cook (book)
In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood’s top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.
Feeling inspired now? Join the VFX Union today!
Any workplace is a relationship between employer and employees.
As in any relationship, there has to be a balance. If one party has all the power and holds all the cards, the relationship is unhealthy.
The only way to achieve this balance is through unionisation. A union gives the workforce a seat at the table and the ability to have a say in decisions that affect them. It doesn’t always have to be adversarial and is more often than not productive for both sides but, without a union pushing for workers rights, every single decision management makes – no matter how good their intentions – is always going to lean in favour of the company.
Sometimes it leans a lot, sometimes it’s almost imperceptible but it always leans in one direction, eroding away quietly over time. That is just reality. The unions are there to help push back against this bias and keep things balanced.
Unionisation results in a positive impact for both the workforce and the industry. Unions are not perfect and just having a union doesn’t magically fix everything, but the alternative would be to have no say in the matter. To just accept whatever is decided without consultation while we watch our rights, benefits and wages erode away over time?
All workers rights, benefits and protections throughout history have always come from the unions. Things like a 40 hour week, child labour laws, health and safety, pensions, paid holidays, maternity, etc… none of it was offered up voluntarily by the companies. It had to be fought for and won by unions.
None of the rights, benefits and regulations we have today can be taken for granted. They must be defended and unions are the only way to do this. Without a union in place, workers rights and benefits will slowly erode away over time.
In a heavily unionised industry like film where virtually every department has a strong union in place, it’s appalling that visual effects is being excluded from union recognition when vfx are arguably the primary force driving the gigantic box office successes that make the film industry so phenomenally successful.
Visual effects IS the film industry. There is no film industry without vfx. It’s time we got the same kind of say in our branch of the film and television industry that other unionised branches get.
Visual effects deserves to be unionised just like the rest of the film industry.
As the saying goes: “If you haven’t got a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu”
Join the VFX Union at BECTU today.
On Tuesday 29th May, Channel 5 News Ran a special report on the economic and health realities of people working in London’s VFX Industry (Dominic Reynolds reporting)