UK VFX Union featured on fxguide podcast!

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Paul Evans, the BECTU national official for the vfx branch and Joe Pavlo, the vfx branch chair had a chat with Jeff Heuser from the fxguide podcast to talk about their work in the UK to establish a Visual Effects Union. A lot of ground was covered from the explosive growth of the vfx union in the UK over the last year, to some of the issues facing people working in the visual effects industry and a look ahead at the future of the union in the visual effects industry.

listen to the episode here:

fxpodcast #303: UK Union update

We discuss the latest info about UK visual effects artists who are seeking union representation. Joe Pavlo (artist) and Paul Evans (BECTU) are our guests. Unpaid overtime, fear, social media, how to organize, collusion, opting out of overtime… just a few of the things Joe and Paul discuss with our Jeff Heusser

also available to download in iTunes

Inspired? Why not come along to the Thursday VFX LunchMeet every week from 1-2pm in the courtyard at St. Anne’s Church, Wardour Street (nr. Shaftesbury Avenue) and find our more about the vfx union – or just cut to the chase and join the union right now!

Thursday VFX Lunchmeet back at the Jurassic Church today!

With London weather, you’ve gotta be prepared to grab some sunshine at a moments notice! Spring seems to be finally here and the weather is gorgeous, so we’re moving the Thursday Lunchmeet back to the courtyard at St. Anne’s Church on Wardour Street (a.k.a. The Jurassic Church)!

1:00-2:00 Thursday at The Jurassic Church

(St. Anne’s, Wardour Street, nr. Shaftesbury Ave.)

 

Grab a sandwich or some sushi, sit on the grass, soak up a little sunshine and chat about what’s happening in the world of London VFX! Come along and tell us what you think about your experiences with the HourlyRateCalculator! It’s going to be a beautiful day, and I’m promised the T-Rex will behave itself and stay in the enclosure the entire time.

 

1:00-2:00pm Thursday at

The Jurassic Church

(St. Anne’s, Wardour Street)

jurassic-church

We are going to be here this Thursday and every Thursday to help connect and motivate people who work in London visual effects! 

See you there! Bring along a friend! Make new friends! The VFX Union can only work for you when you get involved!

Look for the green flag!

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VFXForum Living Wage calculator for Nuke!

UPDATED! Now works in Nuke, Maya, Houdini and anything that uses Python!

Is unpaid overtime driving down your hourly rate below the Living Wage?

One of the problems with unpaid overtime in the visual effects industry is that although we frequently work an extra hour or two (or six!), very few of us stop and think about the effect on our wages. It never occurs to most people that an extra 2 hours in the evening effectively means being paid 20% less per hour!

For example, if someone is on an annual salary of £20K and they are working 40 hours per week, that works out to £9.62 per hour. This is OK. This VFX employee is earning just above the London Living Wage for the hours they put in at work.

But what if that same person on £20K ends up working an extra 20 hours of unpaid overtime one week? At this point, they are not only making well below the London Living Wage at £6.41 per hour, but now they are earning below the National Living Wage and that is actually illegal.

BECTU campaigns for every worker in the UK’s profitable Film and TV industries to be paid the London Living Wage (£9.40 per hour) as an absolute minimum and if people are being paid less than that because of unpaid overtime, we’d like to know about it.

It is illegal for you to be earning less than the National Living Wage which is currently £7.20 for people aged 25 and over or £6.70 for people aged 21-24. If you are earning less than this, then please let BECTU know. BECTU can help to take legal steps to ensure that employees are earning at least the National Living Wage and we will do it without identifying you personally.

So now for the fun bit…

Would you like a quick and easy way to calculate what you’re making per hour after factoring in unpaid overtime? We’ve knocked together a little Nuke script which will make calculating your hourly rate easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Download the text for our HourlyRateCalculator and copy/paste it in to your Nuke script. It will look like this:
Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 15.03.01

Simply enter your annual salary and the hours you work per weekScreen Shot 2016-04-30 at 15.30.28

 

Load it in to the Viewer to see your calculated hourly rate.Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 10.37.32

 

There you go! I hope you all find this little Nuke script useful and illuminating. Play around with it. Try out different values for your salary and hours and see what comes out. The HourlyRateCalculator can be a valuable tool for people at all levels of experience and pay grades. Maybe that extra £2K they’re offering you to promote you to Lead on the next show is not going to be all that great once you factor in all the free overtime the facility will be expecting!

Please feel free to share this script with anyone and everyone in VFX. Go ahead and install it in your Nuke Plug Ins so you can check your hours any time you need to!

Update 1! Now available to download as a .nk file from Nukepedia!

Download the HourlyRateCalculator here!Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 23.35.07

Update 2! Here is the same calculator as a Python script – which you can use in Nuke, Maya, Houdini and other Python friendly apps!

HourlyRateCalculator (Python)screenshot1

screenshot2

Take the VFXforum Poll!

 

JOIN THE DISCUSSION! Sick Pay: Part 2

How does your sick pay stack-up?

On our previous blog post we talked about sick pay, but do you ever wonder how your sick pay might stack up comparably? How it might stack up to other unionized sick pay?

The VFX BECTU Union Branch welcomes any company’s decision to give employees entitlement to some sick pay and it’s great to see employees speaking up and having serious dialogue about sick pay with some employers, but in reality offering 0.5 days per completed month, up to a maximum of 5.5 days within the first year of employment is peanuts in comparison to other employers in the media and entertainment industries.

The fact that so many employees in VFX are on short-term contracts means that even this paltry offer rarely ever matures into anything that would cover more than a couple of days paid sickness leave. Especially when we as workers can feel guilty about using those days during crunch and having our colleagues pick-up the slack when we’re all a team and under the gun together. Not to mention that it seems more and more these days we are in shorter deadlines and crunchtime with more work to do than ever.

Those sick days are of course used or lost and do not accumulate and when you change jobs, you must reenter another qualifying period even if you are returning to a company whom you’ve been employed with before.

Although something is better than nothing, not every visual effects company has had this policy. In fact, while not London based, Rhythm and Hues actually offered cumulative employment periods. That mean that returning contract employees didn’t have to re-enter a qualifying period if rehired. Their previous time employed, even with breaks, was counted overall for qualifying for extra holidays, sick days and medical.

We are aware that the VFX companies have a joint HR working group that is hosted by UK Screen and establishing something like this as a cross-sector arrangement would be a welcome development for the companies to offer fairly standard sickness terms to their owns staff and could help freelancers carry days with them to new companies. We also think that a cross sector arrangement might be beneficial helping visual effects companies come up to par with similar employers in the media and entertainment industries.

BECTU has seen comparative surveys of London-based media companies holiday offerings and the BBC turns out to have the lowest sick-pay provision – and even they pay up to four weeks sick pay for each illness, and up to 13 weeks for all absences to all staff who have worked less than two years in the company (the entitlement doubles after two years). There is no qualifying period on this.

If anything, because so many staff are on short-term contracts, we would expect an employer like this to offer much more generous terms. In the West End Theatres, while there are qualifying periods for earning more than Statutory Sick Pay, the industry has recognised that short-term contracts are a problem and the employers who are members of the Society of West End Theatres often use ‘continuous employment in The West End’ rather than continuous employment with individual employers as the qualifying measure for terms and conditions that vary based on length of service.

This makes sense to us on at the VFX BECTU Branch, after all, many times it’s not the employees or the company’s fault when there are gaps in projects. We fully understand that things get pushed, deadlines change, and sequences get cut on the editing room floor. However, we must admit that this is felt most by those who have contributed so much to the success of countless Hollywood Blockbuster that make millions who inturn then must deal with uncertainty and gaps in employment. While the gaps may be unavoidable, surely starting over and over at the same companies and reentering qualifying periods is something we can change.  As shown above this would be completely achievable and is already done by the West End Theatres and indeed was even implemented by another visual effects company.

This small change could make a world of difference for visual effects employees. It could even be broadened into a shared pension scheme, so workers don’t have to continuously roll individual pensions from one company to the next as they switch jobs and instead work through a “continuous employment in London Visual Effects” as the qualifying measure for terms and conditions that vary based on the length of service.

This Thursday and every Thursday, union members and other vfx people get together at our weekly lunch meet where we chat about things that are important to people in the vfx industry.

We will be meeting this Thursday March 24  1:00 – 2:00 pm  @ Kingley Ct, Carnaby St. 

Look for the green flag

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Poll: Who Would You Like to Win the 2016 VFX Oscar?

An open letter to all staff at MPC

Dear MPC Employee,

We are sure that you’ve heard rumblings about a bid by BECTU to achieve Trade Union Recognition at MPC. We thought that it was time for the union to write to you directly – addressing some of the concerns that have been raised with us over recent weeks.

We initially asked for union recognition in the Compositing and Roto-Prep departments of MPC because most of the staff in those departments asked us to do so.

Most of the staff in those departments (65% on the day that we lodged our request) were already BECTU members. Your colleagues did this because they want a voice in the industry that they work in. So many of you are on short-term contracts, and because of this, our members told us that they were frightened to raise their concerns because they feared being labelled as a trouble-maker.

We understand that, and we will not be disclosing the names of our individual members to employers.

Having a formal role for BECTU at MPC would end that worry anyway, and that’s why your colleagues requested it. They have told us that they don’t like the assumption that they will work long, arbitrary hours of overtime. They don’t like getting emails – at 9pm – berating them for not being at their desks.

They don’t like the culture of short-term contracts and short notice periods. They don’t like the lack of structure in their careers with the company. In other sectors of the film industry, there are training paths and established career structures, and our members have a perception that their employers don’t care about that.

Since we lodged our first ‘recognition’ letter, our membership at MPC has grown considerably. Our total London VFX membership is four times bigger than it was in Summer 2015, and we are now thinking of broadening our campaign to other departments. But before we can do this, we need you to join the union.

We would like to deal with one important issue that has been raised by MPC Staff.

Every single bit of union activity will be 100% directed by BECTU members. Our work will not be driven by BECTU Officials or the wider union. We are a very democratic union.

For a long time, BECTU has been trying to have a serious conversation with VFX employers about the long-hours situation. We have found it almost impossible to get the employers to engage with us properly, and because of this, BECTU’s members asked us to mount a ‘Paid Overtime’ campaign.

We have to run campaigns like that when we can’t have a serious dialogue with employers. We would much rather sit down and negotiate ways that long hours can be limited and planned-for.

To be clear, we have no intention of asking for, or agreeing to, anything that will damage basic rates of pay. Other VFX employers manage this situation in better ways and we want serious conversations with MPC about how we can do this here. Paid overtime is only the solution if employers won’t be sensible and negotiate properly on this issue. Just to underline…

  • 100% of our policy positions with MPC will be decided, democratically, by BECTU members working for the company
  •  100% of our negotiations will be directed by BECTU members working for the company

We will not argue for anything without agreeing it with our members first. Our members love their work and they want their company to succeed. We are not planning to do anything that will hurt MPC. We are attempting to make MPC do something that it plainly doesn’t want to do: Negotiate with its staff about the working conditions that they are employed under.

Our members have reported that, since union activity started, that some working conditions have improved slightly, and one or two perks have started appearing in your inboxes. The 9pm emails have stopped…. for now.

We don’t want to lose these gains

We hope that you will consider joining BECTU. We enclose a membership form that offers a discounted joining rate if we get your form back (in the enclosed FREEPOST envelope) before February 21st 2016.

In the meantime, please keep an eye on http://vfxforum.org – the VFX Union website – you will find details of our regular lunchtime meetups, and hear what other London VFX workers have to say about their working conditions.

We think that you deserve a voice.waiting

With best wishes

BECTU London VFX Branch

Download PDF here: An open letter to all staff at MPC

 

Want to find out more? Come to our Thursday VFX LunchMeet every week at Kingley Court, Carnaby Street from 1:00-2:00 (look for the Green Flag!)