What if I don’t work much VFX overtime?

Not everyone has the same issues or problems while working in visual effects. There has been a lot of discussion on the topic of overtime, but what if you don’t work a lot of overtime? What can the union do for you, you might ask. While we have answered this topic on our FAQ page, there are still many things that union can do for you.

  • When you join, you get access to lawyers and the experience of BECTU. They can help answer contract questions and generally advise you in all areas of UK working laws and employee rights.
  • If you have issues at work, BECTU can come and help represent you with your employer as your advocate.
  • You’ll also be part of a growing network of UK colleagues who come together to discuss issues and talk about related VFX topics.
  • The union could negotiate to ensure our members receive credits on films, as other unions have organized for their members.
  • Furthermore there are a lot other benefits that collective bargaining can achieve beyond OT issues including better sick/holiday/flex-time benefits and redundancy packages in case of layoffs or better contractual notice (a topic we have recently posted about.) and lots of other changes that can improve your work conditions and strengthen the industry as a whole.
  • There are even some great discounts and offers that you as a member receive, including an Apple Store discount. See BECTU’s website for details.


This is still something you can contribute on. Please come to our weekly lunch and discuss with your vfx colleagues what you’d like to see come out of an agreement between workers and visual effects companies. You are the union – get involved! Also, please Take our latest poll on contracts!


We will be meeting this Thursday 11 February  1:00 – 2:00 pm  @ Kingley Ct, Carnaby St. 

Look for the green flag


What Kind of Contract Do You Have?

From our FAQ Page:

What if I don’t work much VFX overtime?

Then you’re very lucky! However, remember that this is issue is not just about you – it’s about your friends and colleagues too.How many of them have you seen regularly working late without pay? How often do you see them queueing up for the company dinner in your office each evening, especially around a deadline? Do you feel comfortable about that? Try asking some of them about the comments from the MPC Variety article or the VFX overtime survey – how many of them are genuinely happy about working conditions in the VFX industry right now?

You don’t need to be working excessive VFX overtime yourself to agree with us that the industry needs to change.

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Discounted Union Membership for a limited time only!

Normally, your first years membership in the union is £10 per month but for a limited time, we have a special deal: Any new members working in VFX who join the union this week (before the end of the day on Sunday 14th Feb) will be able to join for a rate of £7.50 per month for the first year of membership! That’s an annual savings of £30!

You can do this online as long as you…

  • put “VFX Branch” as the answer to the question “Branch – if known”
  • tick “Freelance” as your employment status*
  • on stage 5a of the online application, you use this Promo Code: PBSSFY

If you’re not freelance, it’s OK. BECTU will confirm your employment details once the application has been received.


If you prefer to fill in a form and post it, you can click the image below to download a form to print out.


Posted in BECTU Tagged with: , ,

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


What Kind of Contract Do You Have?

Posted in BECTU Tagged with: , , ,

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


Posted in BECTU

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!


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400 VFX professionals attend union meeting!

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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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:

Posted in BECTU, Media, News

MPC argument against unionisation no. 4


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?”

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