“Thank you to all our artists. The next round of applause is for you. You deserve it as much as we do” – Rob Legato, receiving the Visual Effects Oscar for The Jungle Book
Statutory redundancy. Only statutory redundancy.
Last week, we posted our astonishment at MPC’s general attitude as a company to talent and quality. Readers will remember that they’re largely closing down the Compositing Department that won them the Oscar for Jungle Book a few short months ago – and they’re replacing them with the sort of low wage “trainees” that they can get (thanks to Apprenticeship subsidies) to mind the shop until they need to crew up again for a big job.
It couldn’t stink any more than it does, right?
If what we are hearing is correct, the award winning staff that are being made redundant are being told that they will only receive “statutory redundancy.” That is the absolute minimum redundancy payment that can be paid without being illegal.
Normally, when someone is in a high-value occupation, they would expect the employer to want to retain their skills by offering them a reasonable package – not just a reasonable rate for the hours that they work (not including unpaid overtime).
They would expect at the very least…
- A reasonable amount of sick pay – allowing for some paid time off if you get the lurgy
- A competitive pensions package that shows that the employer has your long-term interests at heart
- A humane approach to your working hours – knowing what all good employers know – that you get more productivity from sensible hours than you get from seven long-day weeks.
- A notice-and-redundancy package to reassure them that they won’t be let go lightly
When employers say that they aim to value and retain staff, one would tend to expect something like “a month for every year” deal – this is a tax-free (up to £30k) payment of one month’s salary, plus a notice period of three months. This is the kind of deal you would expect from a company in this sector (if the company recognises unions, anyway).
This means that they will pay you one month’s salary for every full year you have worked for them as “compensation for loss of employment” along with a notice period that they may or may not need you to work (but you will get paid for them if you don’t work it).
Some of the more cheapskate employers go for “three weeks for every year” or something like that, but as far as the visual effects industry goes, they never act this way. For these employers, what’s on the table is rarely more than the absolute bare legal minimum.
The London VFX facilities offer only one week for every year that you have worked – capped at £489 – a lot less than a quarter of what some employees in other comparable industries get for redundancy.
The ‘statutory cap (for workers aged under 41) at only £489 per week is particularly insulting. So someone earning, say £40,000, who has worked for five years at a company offering the standard “month for every year” and “three months notice” deal would earn around £16,700 tax-free redundancy and would have a three month notice period, or a payment of £10,000 if they didn’t work it.
The same employee, now being laid off from MPC – having just won them an Oscar – would get a tax-free payment of only £2,445 and five weeks pay of £3846 – if the employer decides not to make them work their notice period (we’re not clear yet what the deal is on this).
The bottom line is, vfx facilities like MPC want to reap all the rewards from their employees, but are not willing to go the extra mile to show how much they value the dedication and talent of their workers. Not so long ago in November, 2014, there was an article in Variety where the CEO of MPC Mark Benson said that for The Moving Picture Company, “Valuing Artists is the Best Effect”.
Everybody knew it wasn’t true back then and it seems very much like isn’t true today either.