Large BECTU survey points to serious concerns from MPC’s visual effects workers

full article on BECTU’s website here

Bare necessities missing for VFX workers at MPC

“Moving Picture Company appears to encapsulate everything that is wrong with employment in UK VFX in microcosm” says BECTU, the media and entertainment union.

In a large-scale survey of people who have worked at London’s Moving Picture Company (MPC), conducted in the week leading up to the UK premiere ofJungle Book, BECTU has found a workforce, both past and present, that has serious concerns about the company’s coercive working culture, with widespread complaints from world-class VFX artists about pressures to work excessive unpaid overtime.

In late 2015, BECTU started actively recruiting at MPC, which provided VFX services on Jungle Book.  In campaigning for union recognition, members were taken aback by management’s hostility to this move; recruitment literature was removed and discussion about the union was banned in staff forums. Thankfully, part of the company’s attempts to keep the union out resulted in small improvements to management attitudes towards their staff, but – as BECTU’s survey shows – significant concerns remain.

In particular, members were conscious of unfair pressure resulting from the company’s culture of short-term contracts. MPC has an employee-profile that dramatically contradicts UK Screen’s claims that “91% of the UK VFX workforce have a permanent contract.”

Short term contracts increase workplace pressures

Instead, MPC appears to have an overwhelming preference for short-term contracts, with a surprising number of individual respondents (in free-text comments) making a direct link between this and the climate of pressure from managers, particularly on unpaid overtime.

Significant numbers of staff were prepared to say that:

  • MPC is not interested in a fair dialogue with independently-minded employees
  • they have little faith in the ‘Crew Forum’ as a means of resolving problems fairly (current employees were significantly sceptical)
  • work-life balance for VFX artists at MPC is often very bad.

There were widespread fears around:

  • refusing to work unpaid overtime
  • raising legitimate grievances with management
  • management finding out about individuals’ BECTU membership.

There was a significant number of respondents who complained of “unwelcome pressure” or feeling harassed by colleagues / management, and an even larger number of respondents who said that they knew of colleagues who had experienced such pressure. A very clear majority of the respondents who knew about unwelcome pressure believed that reporting such behaviour would be frowned upon (in many cases because management were the ones behaving badly).

Paul Evans, BECTU national official, supporting VFX workers said:

“These results are very disturbing and we hope that MPC will agree to work with us on a full independent survey on this subject so that it can be dealt with properly. The VFX sector is now a central part of the UK film industry. It is astonishing that most survey respondents were frightened that MPC would find out that they are members of a trade union, and that there was a widespread fear of raising concerns, reporting unwelcome pressure and asking for a responsive management.

“MPC appears to encapsulate everything that is wrong with employment in UK VFX in microcosm – particularly the way the business is structured to pressure people into working long hours without being paid for overtime. In a few clear cases, respondents reported direct bullying and intimidation from managers.

“If the UK VFX industry is to retain the talent that it needs to survive and grow, it needs to be a race to the top, and not to the bottom. We need London to lose its reputation for excessive unpaid overtime, and this forms part of BECTU’s wider campaign to ensure that everyone in the film industry is paid for all of the hours that they work.”

 

BECTU is the media and entertainment union for the UK

read the full article on BECTU’s website here

 

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 April 14th  1:00 – 2:00 pm  @ Kingley Ct, Carnaby St. 

Look for the green flag!

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  • JamesM

    Please stop the MPC bashing.
    It’s not worse than other VFX facilities, so it’s tedious to see it being used as Bectu’s Official Scapegoat.
    As a member of both Bectu and MPC, I can confirm that there are lots of happy people who thoroughly enjoy their work at MPC. Plus, a lot of people coming back after having been at other London studios.
    Moreover the direction has acknowledged its mistakes and has implemented a lot of positive resolutions. For instance, the weekend work emails are much rarer, and insist that they’re not mandatory.
    Don’t get me wrong, I still believe Bectu should keep fighting so we get paid overtime.
    However it’s getting really frustrating for my colleagues and me to witness our company getting picked on.

    PS: The above survey is statistically biased as it only took into account members of Bectu.

    • Harry_Tuttle

      Reporting is not bashing. The results of the survey are real. While it is by no means scientific or conclusive, it should be cause for concern. If MPC takes caring about their employees and the quality of their work environment seriously, they should take these results seriously and work together with BECTU to investigate this further.

    • James

      Then how come the survey only focused on MPC and excluded employees of other studios on these industry-wide issues.

    • LSP

      >>> Please stop the MPC bashing.

      I agree with Harry – “reporting is not bashing”. I thought the survey that BECTU put out was very fairly worded, actually. There weren’t any leading questions or anything, it was simply asking people how they found it working at MPC. What is it here that you feel is MPC-bashing?

      >>> It’s not worse than other VFX facilities, so it’s tedious to see it being used as Bectu’s Official Scapegoat.

      With respect, the numbers and the facts seem to say differently here. None of the other VFX facilities have had anything like the infamous MPC Variety article happen, for example. I haven’t heard of any emails being sent to staff at other facilities accusing them of “not taking things seriously” because they aren’t staying past 9pm at night either. Just because BECTU have sent a survey round to MPC members and then issued a press release on the results does not make MPC “BECTU’s official scapegoat” – it just means they’re focusing their research there because MPC seems to have more horror stories than other facilities.

      >>> As a member of both Bectu and MPC, I can confirm that there are lots of happy people who thoroughly enjoy their work at MPC. Plus, a lot of people coming back after having been at other London studios.

      I’m sure there are – many people do enjoy their work in VFX, particularly those in higher positions and those who aren’t so exposed to crunch-time during delivery. Speaking personally, I love my job when I can leave on time and have a life outside of work. However, clearly not everyone does enjoy working at MPC – especially judging by the results of this survey.

      And yes, you’re right – many people do return to MPC. However, how many of those people return to MPC not because they want to, but because MPC happens to be the only studio hiring when their contract ends somewhere else? You can’t say “people come back to MPC, therefore it must be a good place to work” – it doesn’t work that way.

      >>> Moreover the direction has acknowledged its mistakes and has implemented a lot of positive resolutions. For instance, the weekend work emails are much rarer, and insist that they’re not mandatory.

      That is good news – let’s hope the improvements continue, eh?

      >>> Don’t get me wrong, I still believe Bectu should keep fighting so we get paid overtime. However it’s getting really frustrating for my colleagues and me to witness our company getting picked on.

      Again, I don’t see how a survey means that BECTU is picking on MPC?

      There’s something I don’t understand here – perhaps you can clarify. On the one hand, you’re happy for BECTU to press the VFX companies for something they clearly don’t want to give us (paid overtime). However, at the same time you don’t want BECTU to “pick on” an individual VFX company like MPC, even when MPC has repeatedly said no to paid overtime. How do you think BECTU should handle this differently, then? What else should BECTU do when a company like MPC makes it very clear that they don’t want to cooperate with BECTU?

      >>> PS: The above survey is statistically biased as it only took into account members of Bectu.

      Yes, and I believe BECTU acknowledged this in the “editor’s note” in the full article. BECTU have repeatedly said that they’d love to work directly with MPC on this to get more accurate numbers, and asked MPC whether they’d be willing to allow an independent survey to be done of all their staff, but MPC have refused so far. Perhaps these survey results will help change their minds and convince them that an independent survey needs to be done!

      Thanks for commenting and being honest, though – it’s good to hear this kind of feedback. Maybe we can meet up and chat more at one of the Thursday lunchtime meetings or something?

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