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)
Where Union’s work elsewhere (TUC as an example)
What exactly can a VFX Union do for you? It can be easy to get lost when it comes to understanding EXACTLY what a Union will do to change your life for the better… Some come to the conclusion that things are fine how they are, accept the current state of affairs and move on like things have been doing for some years. Some are still curious what the benefits are. We can all agree that things can be much better!
To help demystify what a Union could do for VFX, let’s look at strong Unions that are thriving today and not just BECTU.
The TUC, one of the world’s largest Unions that supports 49 individual member Unions, consisting of 5.5 MILLION working people is a great example. In an article with Paul Nowark, the National Organiser at the time of publication, outlines quite simply why a Union is beneficial for BOTH employee and employers.
Here is a breakdown of his points regarding the TUC from the article:
- A Union ALWAYS has a say: The first advantage of Union membership is to “make sure changes are negotiated rather than imposed”. So a Union has a say over any massive changes (excessive unpaid overtime for example) the industry might face.
- +15.6% more: Union members are shown to get paid an average of 15.6% more than non-unionised workers according to official government figures.
- Professional support: Much like BECTU, Unions offer their members advice, support and representation if they have issues with their employer. No one is ever alone or bullied into situations they shouldn’t ever have to face.
- Benefits: There are all sorts of other spin-off benefits, too, ranging from financial advice and insurance deals to training opportunities.
- Learning and Training: The Open University, for example, offers a discount on courses to union members for TUC members.
- Any drawbacks? There is the cost of a membership. A typical subscription costs £11 a month for one of the big unions. A small price to pay.
- One for all, All for one! Joining a union, rather like voting, is one of those things that only makes a big difference if lots and lots of other people do it too.
- Support no matter what: If you decide to join a union and your workplace is not already unionised, for example, you’ll get support if you have a grievance or are in danger of being dismissed, but your union won’t be able to sit down with your employer to negotiate salary and conditions on your behalf. It is only if 50% or more of the workforce are members that the employer is legally obliged to recognise the union, so the answer may be to rally your workmates to the cause.
- Getting an employers response: “If people join, that gives us the opportunity to go and talk to the employer. The more people are members and active, the more likely we are to get a positive response.” says Nowak
So that’s the TUC, one of the biggest Unions in the world on how their current Unions work.
That’s all very well and good but VFX is different to other industries, right? A Union will end up hurting our employers and they’ll move to other countries where it is cheap! No brainer!
Hold on there… a Union can be just as beneficial for them as it can be for us and that is what we need them to understand. We aren’t here to turn the clothes on their backs to rags. Far from it! Now, here is a small breakdown found online showing how a VFX Union will make our employers MORE efficient and MORE money by a Unionised workforce.
We are all in it together! How Unions work for Employers too, not just employee’s
Here are a few key points how Unions help employers:
- Assurance of a stable and well-trained workforce: Unions often have their own programs to train employees in their trades as listed above, relieving employers from the cost of training inexperienced workers. Well-trained employees create better and safer work conditions. In return, employers have fewer days lost because of work-related injuries or illnesses… saving them lots of money!
- Predictable Costs: Labor contracts give employers the ability to more accurately predict future operation costs for fixed time periods. This makes it much easier for the employer to control costs, develop product operating strategies, plan for expansion and invest in the future of the company and its employees. Employers will have less employee turnover and should have union assurance that more workers will be available if needed. Negotiating a contract with one party, the union, is much easier than having to negotiate a wage and job description with each individual employee, also helping to predict costs.
- Help employers communicate better with staff: Unions will help employers and employees communicate better when issues arise with the aim to keep both parties happy. With this attitude, staff turnover will reduce and help the team mature into a well established well-oiled company.
There you have it, a snippet of how Unions are working elsewhere and hopefully you can get a good idea of what a VFX Union could blossom in to. We all need to get together and make this awesome industry even more amazing.
Join the VFX Union at BECTU today!
It happened in London, and it’s about to happen again in Canada.
We’ve heard reports that 90% of the compositing department for Montreal will be let go/have their contracts run out shrinking the Montreal office down to around 20 core compositing crew (including supervisors).
Statutory redundancy. Only statutory redundancy.
Last week, we posted our astonishment at MPC’s general attitude as a company to talent and quality. Readers will remember that they’re largely closing down the Compositing Department that won them the Oscar for Jungle Book a few short months ago – and they’re replacing them with the sort of low wage “trainees” that they can get (thanks to Apprenticeship subsidies) to mind the shop until they need to crew up again for a big job.
It couldn’t stink any more than it does, right?
Another show down, and it’s the same old story. We have anonymously received copies of emails encouraging long hours, seven day weeks; and citing false deadlines from one of the BIG VFX Houses.
As a VFX worker, have you ever thought about what it will be like when you reach the age of 67? Will your pension be enough for you to live on? Will your health still allow you to work 70 hours a week to deliver the latest instalment of your grandchildren’s favourite superhero movie? And will it still be OK if you only get paid for 40 out of those 70 hours?