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!)

 

TECHNICOLOR makes deal to buy THE MILL for €259 MILLION

The Mill has been bought..

 

theMill

 

More companies merging it looks like in visual effects. The Mill has been acquired by Technicolor for €259 million. I hope this doesn’t mean lay offs for any of the crew. Technicolor already has well known visual effects companies like MPC, Mr. X and Mikros Image. Mikros Image, based in Paris, has only just been acquired itself in April 2015. I guess it’s not surprise the acquired a top notch advertising facility to put into their portfolio, especially since advertising can turn more revenue sometimes than films. Two acquisitions in 6 months though, does that seem like a lot? What do you think?

http://www.technicolor.com/en/who-we-are/press-news-center/press-releases/technicolor-acquires-visual-effects-leader-in-advertising-the-mill

“This story only highlights what MPC wants people to believe”

A recent article in ‘Variety’ about the London company is being met with a storm of protest from within the VFX community. Commenters complain about a toxic corporate environment and describe deplorable working conditions.

The Moving Picture Company (MPC) is said to have “managed to fly high without losing sight of crucial details, notably its people.”

Which drew comments in response that include:

“Having worked at MPC I have to say that this story is hilariously inaccurate….in fact it’s the complete opposite of reality. Within the VFX industry they are known to be treat their artists awfully.”

“This story only highlights what MPC wants people to believe. Anyone who has worked there or knows someone who has, knows this story to be a PR exercise and nothing more.”

Jennifer Wolfe writes on AWN:
“The real news is the 135+ comments that have been posted in Variety’s comments section, most of them describing deplorable working conditions, including massive amounts of overtime without pay and a toxic corporate environment.”

And VFX Soldier comments:
“MPC is sort of the Walmart of the VFX industry: It’s a powerful company that treats it’s workers just poorly enough to where they can get the most amount of work out of them.”

Readers who commented on the article generally regarded the story as a “puff piece”. Reportedly, huge weekly workloads of between 60 to 100 hours are “always risking deadlines and quality.” Commentary ranges from outrage to anecdotal evidence.

“100 hour and over workweeks are the NORM… not just sometimes, all the time. People blocking the exits so you cannot leave until 3am dailies are completed is the NORM. Does this sound like a decent workplace? They BLACKLIST.”

“Talk about management practices, blacklists, bullying, things they’ve done which is illegal
such as not keeping track of OT”

“Absolute nightmare. So many broken promises. Underpaid undervalued and treated like a slave. I was ill with stress multiple times, got RSI and entered work each morning with gut wrenching anxiety.”

“Most of these stories are true. MPCs working hours are beyond unrealistic and disgusting.”

“This puff piece was just the straw that broke the camels back. If Benson already knows what it’s actually like working there and is signing off on this kind of PR fluff then that’s depressing. If he doesn’t it’s just worrying.”

“Talk to your employees! Talk to the staff, to the artists, to the technicians. Let them come to your office regularly, they don’t bite: you’ll be immensely surprised of what goes on. And believe me: you’ll company will finally make proper use of its workforce and make way more money.”

One commenter encourages the readers “to try and improve the job and an industry that, reading the comments here, you clearly still care about.”

Late Friday the number of comments has reached 300.


LINKS:
variety.com/2014/film/news/moving-picture-co-finds-valuing-artists-is-the-best-effect-1201346561/

awn.com/news/workplace-conditions-mpc-called-poisonous

vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/varietys-mpc-puff-piece-reveals-vfx-industry-woes-few-solutions/