JOIN THE DISCUSSION! This week’s topic: Contracts

In December, UK CEO Sarah Mackey stated that according to the Creative Skillset 2014 Workforce Survey ‘91% of the UK VFX workforce have a permanent contract’. However, our experience has been that this simply is not true for the vast majority of UK VFX workers.

We took a closer look at the survey, and found that 38% of those permanent employees were classified as “senior/managers or supervisors,” and roughly a quarter (26%) considered themselves “professionals/executives.” The rest were supporting roles to VFX artists.

The survey had 332 responses –  about 6% of the estimated 5300 UK VFX workers. We would respectfully suggest that 6% of the workforce isn’t a large enough sample to accurately represent the true state of the UK VFX industry.

We believe that majority of VFX workers are on project based contracts, and we know how much stress and worry can come around with looming end dates every few months. Last week at our VFX lunch, we talked about contractual notice and we’d like to continue the discussion surrounding contracts.

Is this an issue for you? Are you on a contract? Take our poll! Want to give your input on solutions? Please come to our weekly lunch meet-up where we will be discussing this topic this week. Come and join the discussion!

We will be meeting this Thursday 2 February  1:00 – 2:00 pm  @ The Plaza, Oxford Street

Look for the green flag

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What Kind of Contract Do You Have?

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JOIN THE DISCUSSION! This week’s topic: Contractual Notice

After overtime, one of the biggest gripes about working in VFX is contractual notice. Many companies have a majority of PAYE (Pay As You Earn) workers on rolling contracts that can be anywhere from 1 week to 1 year.

With projects schedules often changing last minute, some workers receive extension notices inside of two-weeks from their final “end date.” A handful have even been given notice the same week, asking them for extensions or confirming their termination date. This makes it extremely hard to line up future jobs or plan accordingly. Especially if you enjoy working for the company and would like to stay on.

With this kind of insecurity, we think that it’s hard to plan for the future and would like to work with Visual Effects Companies to change this.  While some schedule changes can be out of VFX companies hands, we do believe that there is some room for improvement and better dialogue so workers can prepare for any sudden changes in contract, with-in a fair working notice period.

Has this happened to you? Want to give your input on solutions to the problem? Please come to our weekly lunch meet-up where we will be discussing this topic this week. Come and join the discussion!

 

We will be meeting this Thursday 28th January  1:00 – 2:00 pm  @ The Plaza, Oxford Street

Look for the green flag

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Ever notice…

  
Join the VFX Union!

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Mass meeting of VFX workers says industry needs fixing

From BECTU’s website :

A mass meeting of VFX workers earlier this week (Wednesday 13 January) showed how deeply staff feel about staff welfare and called on the industry to correct its shortcomings.

Close to 400 people attended the huge meeting at Regent Hall, Oxford Street. That’s right, four hundred people. But whilst the evening was cold and wet, the mood of the meeting was anything but.

VFX workers are a remarkable bunch: characterful, patient and kind. Those at the meeting were probably representative of every continent, a factor also reflected in BECTU’s growing VFX branch which has to be the most international in the union. Why so? Because London is the place to develop a career in VFX with 50 per cent of the world’s blockbuster VFX capacity located in the capital.

Read more here!

If you’ve been waiting to join the VFX Union, NOW is the time!

goVFXunion

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400 VFX professionals attend union meeting!

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Over 400 people who work in Londons Visual Effects industry attended a meeting set up by BECTU and its members. There were talks by representatives of BECTU and vfx union members about how unionisation can help not only the people who work in VFX, but also the facilities and the industry as a whole.

Discussions centered around the recent bid for recognition by the Compositing department at MPC, the new bid for recognition by the Animation department at Framestore and the goal of total unionisation of the Visual Effects industry here in London and around the world.

By the end of the evening we had an astonishing 100 new members join the VFX branch of BECTU! One BECTU representative said that this one union meeting smashed their previous record of 51 new members that BECTU has ever achieved from a single event!

Come join us today at our usual Thursday VFX Lunch Meet in the food court at the Plaza, Oxford Street, W1 from 1:00-2:00. We’ve got a lot to celebrate and talk about!

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Feedback on the union from someone who’s worked in vfx

Please enjoy this guest blogpost from Jason Mayeran executive board member for The Animation Guild, Local 839 in Los Angeles and an fx artist working at DreamWorks Animation.

What? I Got a Job!

I began my film VFX career in my mid 20’s. I had a BFA and an MFA and a six figure student loan. On my first feature film credit, I worked about 65 to 90 hours a week with an hourly salary only slightly greater than what I had been making at Best Buy. LA rents were double and I had to live on couches for a few months before settling into a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 people. I had no medical or dental insurance, 0 sick days, 0 vacation days, and 0 retirement contributions. That first feature film grossed over half a billion and won the BAFTA for VFX.

Going Union.

After almost 2 years, I left VFX behind and moved to an animation studio covered by IATSE’s Local 839 Union. I was so ill prepared for the increased quality of life standards, I negotiated to receive the union minimum for my job classification. It was still a huge salary increase, so I was happy. I will admit being highly skeptical of being forced to join a union for a job, the initiation fees were a significant amount of money to me at the time.

I turned 30, got married, began a family, and bought a house. Health insurance and paid time off became much more important to me and so the union began to return value. I also began to notice other protections, especially with overtime that would help curb against late changing production schedule decisions. For instance, if you are asked to come in on a 6th day(Saturday) they would have to pay you for a minimum of 4 hours, so no being expected to stop by and monitor weekend renders. Also you were limited to 14 actual hours from starting work in a day before getting doubletime pay, so no weird hours with long unpaid midday breaks. Doubletime kicked in sooner on the 6th and 7th days.

As I approached 40, planning for the future became more important, retirement, kids college, investments. I was pleasantly surprised when I began digging into the pension and retirement planning aspects of the union benefits. After 5 years, I had vested in a monthly retirement benefit for myself with survivorship of my spouse. There was also a 2nd pension which was approaching a six figure lump sum for my 11 years of participation in the union. I still look forward to qualifying for lifetime secondary health care for me and my wife at 15 years, and early retirement without penalty on my monthly benefit. These are all benefits fully funded by studio contributions with nothing out of my pocket as a result of the union agreements.

But Won’t The Studios Hate Me?

The Union is not an adversarial entity to a studio. There is some friction at times, but there is also a clear grievance and arbitration route for those frictions. The friction is also very infrequent, most of the time the union and studio just coexist. Ultimately they are working towards related goals, the studio wants the most productivity out of their employees to maximize profits and the union wants its members to be happy. Employees work best and are most focused when they know they have stability, good health care and a future. Working at their best insures higher productivity and better morale which makes it easier to recruit top talent. More top talent leads to even more productivity and potentially better results. All these things help the bottom line. There are many very successful non-union companies that take this worker happiness philosophy in to account with their compensation packages like Facebook, Netflix or Google to name a few. A union forces the quality of life increases to employees which can help increase happiness and productivity.

But Your Union is Only Animation.

Local 839 has about 1/4 to 1/3 of it’s membership in roles that directly overlap with VFX jobs, compositing, character animation, cloth/hair, fx, modeling, texture painting, lighting, etc. Having experienced the increase in quality of life a union brings, it can be a tough sell for those artists and technicians to return or move to a non-union VFX job. Having a global union community would help companies recruit for talent that they wouldn’t normally have access to. I would personally enjoy returning to do some live action fx work, but even if I were paid far more than my current salary, the union benefits, and quality of life would make it an almost unworkable option.

So If You Only Want to Read One Part Of This.

The Animation Guild (local 839) has been around for over 50 years and has had high and low points. I think we are currently in a high point, membership is still growing to an all time high and feature and television animation production in LA is still strong despite global competition and attempts at outsourcing. The problem an established organization like this faces in the good times is apathy of its membership. The protections the union provides helps its members the most through the bad times, but unless you have the good times to give you leverage and a vitalized membership, you can’t negotiate for those protections. We already have a contract in place, creating a new one is going to be challenging for you. It will not just form on its own. A union is like any organization, it can only be as strong as its members. I would urge you to take your chance now while you have momentum and there are lots of jobs currently available in your area. If the industry takes a downturn, unionizing will be near impossible to do until the industry comes back up. Keep in mind, these productions can not be made without you. The artistry and technical prowess you contribute is a valuable resource and there are not any reasons you shouldn’t have a happy and healthy life pursuing it.

Good Luck!

Jason Mayer

 

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BIG LONDON VFX MEETING

WED 13 JAN

It’s selling out! Register to ensure your place (free) bit.ly/unionise

Posted in BECTU

MPC argument against unionisation no. 5

MPC says: ‘A union could mean that just 40% of the workers can decide the fate of everyone else’

This is either a misunderstanding of how union recognition works, or is a deliberate attempt to put workers off of unionisation by spreading misinformation about it. Don’t just take our word for it, feel free to check up on any of these facts yourself (this page by the UK government confirms it, as does the UK government’s full PDF guide to recognition). Let’s take a simplified look at how membership numbers affect a recognition bid.

Once a recognition bid has started, checks are made at several points throughout the process to make sure that the union still has enough support for the bid to continue. If at any point the numbers aren’t high enough, then the bid ends immediately and recognition is refused. The required membership level gets higher with each check as the bid develops:

  1. For a bid to start, the union only needs 10% of the chosen department to be members.
    Note: 10% is only a minimum. A recognition bid requires a union to commit significant time and resources, and are therefore not started lightly. It would be highly foolish for a union to start a bid with a membership level as low as 10%, and in practice most unions – including BECTU – will insist on a much higher and fairer membership level before they’ll even consider launching a recognition bid.
  2. Halfway through the recognition process, in order for the bid to proceed to the CAC, the union needs to show that a majority of workers in the chosen department “would be likely to favour union recognition”. For it to be able to do this, the union will either need at least 40% of the department to be members, or it’ll need some other demonstration of support (like a petition signed by the majority of the department for example).
  3. In the final stages of a bid, one last membership check is made. If the union’s membership includes over 50% of the chosen department, then recognition is granted immediately. Otherwise, if the union has 40%-50% of the chosen department, then a ballot is held – and recognition is only granted if over 50% of those who vote in the ballot are in favour of recognition. The vote is ruled to be invalid if less than 40% of the department as a whole took part. This is a higher standard than UK elections, where in 2015 the conservatives won a majority with 37% of the vote , and where no required minimum turnout rule exists at all (in 1998 turnout in one local election was just 28.8%).

So as you can see, this worry has no basis. Recognition bids are hard – deliberately so. It would be very, very difficult for a bid to be successful if only 40% of the department supported it. The only way this could happen is if either (1) the company chose to immediately grant voluntary recognition in step 1 without checking via ACAS that the union had enough support, or (2) if most of those in the department against recognition for some reason decided not to vote.

If a VFX company is genuinely concerned about “40% of the workers deciding the fate of everyone else”, then we would invite them to talk to BECTU. BECTU would be happy to correct any misconceptions they might have about recognition. BECTU can also give the company a rough anonymised idea of membership level in initial talks via a third party such ACAS to assure them that the membership level is high enough. From the conversations we’ve had with VFX workers and the feedback we’ve had so far, we can safely predict that it is a lot more than “just 40%” of our departments that want to see a positive change in the VFX industry!…

– See more at: http://vfxforum.org/faq/#what_arguments_has_mpc_given_against_unionisation_so_far

Posted in BECTU, Media, News

MPC argument against unionisation no. 4

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MPC says: ‘For things to get fairer for everyone, seniors, leads and supes will have to accept a pay cut.’

Again, not true – this is an attempt to turn different workers against each other. Our response to this is exactly the same as the response that we gave for “pay-banding” and “the pit is not bottomless”:

  • Members get to vote on any proposed agreement that changes how pay or other key parts of our working conditions are run. If enough members are unhappy with a proposed agreement, then it will be rejected and it simply won’t come into force. If a new agreement was voted in by members, then it would be because a majority were unhappy with the old agreement, and a new agreement was therefore necessary anyway. No agreement will come into force without the members’ approval.
  • It’s not in a union’s interest to push a company out of business or to make it less efficient than competitors – workers would lose jobs, and the union will lose members. Remember that unions make their workforces more efficient, not less`.

It’s impossible to say with any certainty what exact terms will come out of negotiations between BECTU and a VFX company if a recognition bid is successful. The question that workers at MPC should be asking themselves right now is not “What will the results be for me financially?”, but rather “Are we being treated fairly by our employers right now, and if not, would we like a union to work on our behalf to try to improve the situation?”

– See more at: http://vfxforum.org/faq/#what_arguments_has_mpc_given_against_unionisation_so_far

 

 TheUnionAwakensCrop
BIG LONDON VFX MEETING

WED 13 JAN

It’s selling out! Register to ensure your place (free) bit.ly/unionise

Posted in BECTU, Media, News

MPC argument against unionisation no. 3

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MPC says: ‘If a union is recognised, then it’s no longer possible for us to reward good workers with pay increases’

Again, not true. Just because a union has been recognised, it doesn’t mean that pay agreements with the workers suddenly magically change. The relationship between the workers, a recognised union and a company normally works like this:

  1. The members at a company are unhappy. They speak to their elected union rep, and it becomes clear that a majority of them want to see some kind of change in their working conditions (like paid overtime for example).
  2. The union rep brings this issue to the union’s attention, and asks the union to begin negotiations with the company about it.
  3. The union negotiates with management at the company on behalf of its members, and tries to come up with a proposed agreement that gives the workers what they are asking for. If this isn’t possible, then the union will try to find an alternate proposed agreement that at least goes part-way.
  4. If a proposed agreement was found, then the union presents this proposed agreement to their members, and the members vote on it. If enough members are in favour of it, then the agreement comes into force. If the members reject it or if no proposed agreement was reached, then the members decide what to do next – whether to ask BECTU to go for a different deal, or whether to give up on their demands, or whether to consider industrial action of some sort to put pressure the company (such as refusing to work excessive overtime).

So just because a department chose to unionise through BECTU, it doesn’t mean that pay banding would automatically have to come into effect. It would only come in if the members wanted it, an agreement was reached, and a majority of those members voted for it. If a department feels that they are already fairly rewarded for good work and that the system isn’t being abused, then they’d have no reason to ask for and vote in favour of a different pay structure that gets rid of it.

Even if workers did choose to vote for pay banding or rate-cards at some point in the future, pay banding is more commonly implemented as a minimum anyway, i.e. “as a lead compositor, you should be paid at least £XXX per hour”. There’s no reason that a rate-card or pay-banding system should stop a company from paying talented individuals more than the minimum rate. If you don’t believe us, then have a look at a genuine BECTU rate card (PDF) for the camera branch, and see for yourself.

Finally, remember that any future decision we make over pay-banding/rate cards is completely separate from the question of whether we should unionise or not. The question is not “What will the results be for me financially?”, but rather “Are we being treated fairly by our employers right now, and if not, would we like a union to work on our behalf to try to improve the situation?”

– See more at: http://vfxforum.org/faq/#what_arguments_has_mpc_given_against_unionisation_so_far

 TheUnionAwakensCrop
BIG LONDON VFX MEETING 
WED 13 JAN
It’s selling out! Register to ensure your place (free) bit.ly/unionise 

Posted in BECTU, Media, News

MPC argument against unionisation no. 2

Squeezed-coin-between-fin-007MPC says: ‘If one department unionises, then we’ll have to cut everyone else’s pay by 20% to pay for it’

It’s hard to take this excuse as anything other than blackmail, and an attempt to turn VFX workers against each other.

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, when a union is recognised it doesn’t somehow mean that every worker instantly gets suddenly becomes more expensive, or that everyone instantly gets paid overtime. When a union is first recognised, nothing changes at all beyond the fact that the company is now required to talk to the union, and must give access to the information they need to be able to do their job (profit margins, pay scales, employee lists, etc). If MPC chose to cut everyone else’s pay as a bizarre form of “collective punishment”, then there would be absolutely no reason for them to do this other than greed – they would be using the union as a convenient excuse to increase profits by reducing wages. If this came to pass and these other departments felt unhappy at being punished like this, then BECTU would welcome them with open arms, and would be happy to start fighting for their rights too.

Remember, unionisation is a basic legal right that almost everyone in the UK has – why should MPC punish its workers simply for exercising their rights? What if instead of putting all this time and effort into fighting unionisation, MPC put the same time and effort into collaborating with the union to end worker exploitation and excessive overtime instead?

– See more at: http://vfxforum.org/faq/#what_arguments_has_mpc_given_against_unionisation_so_far

 TheUnionAwakensCrop
BIG LONDON VFX MEETING
WED 13 JAN
It’s selling out! Register to ensure your place (free) bit.ly/unionise

Posted in BECTU, Media, News