A guide to the BECTU/PACT TV Drama Agreement
BECTU and Pact have been in negotiations on a TV Drama agreement (the Agreement) that will cover all key working terms and conditions for crew engaged on indie UK drama and comedy. It is envisaged that most TV drama and comedy commissioned by independent producers will be covered by the Agreement.
A copy of the proposed agreement can be found in resources.
Information on consultation events can be found in the diary.
The need for an agreement
BECTU is recommending that its members accept the Agreement by voting for it in a ballot that will be issued to participating branches of the union in May 2017. The union believes that:
- this agreement is the best one that can be achieved through negotiation
- the absence of an agreement over many years has resulted in a long-term erosion of terms and conditions and the long working hours used in TV drama are a consequence of that
- this proposed agreement also represents significant improvements in standard working practices in the UK TV industry.
Improvements in standard working practices
Under the Agreement, crew engaged on a TV Drama will have a full statement of their terms and conditions at the start of their engagement. They will be provided with a "deal memo" (examples will be provided during the consultation) that details pay rates, hours, planned locations and other important terms and conditions.
This will protect all crew working on the production, and under the Agreement crew will not be asked to start work without knowing their rates, terms and conditions.
Improved terms and conditions in TV Drama for many
All of BECTU's production branches were invited to be represented in the negotiation and every branch is recommending acceptance of the Agreement on the basis that it consolidates and improves existing working conditions. Under the Agreement:
- every member of the crew will be working clearly agreed hours and at a transparent daily rate of pay
- unlimited unpaid overtime at the start and end of working days will be a thing of the past
- in many cases, crew will find that their overtime rate will be higher than the arrangements that they are currently working on as the Agreement includes a 1.5T overtime rate with a minimum of £35 per hour
- many members of crew (particularly prep and wrap) will be working on increased overtime rates
- "clawback" will be restricted and hours worked after midnight will attract paid compensatory rest (effectively meaning that it will be paid at a "double time" rate where rest is not given)
- the convention of the "weekly rate" will be replaced by a "daily rate" which will ensure that every day worked will be paid
- there will be a restriction on the number of six day weeks in a worker’s shooting schedule along with a £100 penalty each time the cap is broken
- crew will receive "double time" for working a seventh day in a row
- grace periods are reduced
- travel time will be codified and applied consistently throughout a production.
Structure of the working day
The Deal Memo will stipulate the length of the working day (generally, 10 or 11 hour standard days). Crew will also know what prep/wrap work is expected of them - this will be stipulated and agreed upfront and crew will be paid overtime for all hours worked beyond that. There will be no more ad-hoc requests by production for extra unpaid prep/wrap work.
The negotiations focused on the length of the working day, when it starts, ends, and what breaks are provided, as well as delivering significant restrictions on "clawback" - the practice of moving late call-times forward each day. The agreement also clearly defines the "standard working day" along with the "continuous working day" in an unambiguous way. The "semi-continuous working day" will have to be negotiated locally when it is needed. BECTU branches will be making recommendations on what a reasonable response to a request for this would be.
During the consultation period, BECTU and Pact will jointly publish some guidance that provides more details on specific scenarios. If you have any questions, we will answer them and incorporate the answers into this document. Please email your questions to the London Production Division mailbox and a periodic update will be provided.
BECTU members will be consulted formally on this agreement. If the members vote to accept, it will be implemented within 6 months of the signature. 6 months after implementation, BECTU and Pact will begin the negotiation of a comprehensive rate-card covering all areas of production covered by the Agreement.
The Agreement will run for an initial period of two years from late 2017 onwards. It is a "whole agreement" which means that employers can not cherry-pick terms and conditions from it. There will be a review period at the end of the first year at which point the terms may be re-negotiated and BECTU will be in dialogue with Pact throughout this period to revisit any issues that are particularly pressing.
At the end of two years, the Agreement will continue until terminated either by the employers or by BECTU.
Because BECTU is a democratic union, every crew-member working on TV drama production is able to participate and shape this, and future agreements. BECTU urges all production workers to join the union and participate in the rate card negotiations that will follow any formal adoption of this agreement by Pact and BECTU.
Consulting you on this agreement
In April and May 2017, BECTU will host a number of events that are open to all members. These will be organised at the request of any branches that want to organise a meeting and they can be held in national and regional cities, central London or at any workplace locations that the union is invited to. Please check the BECTU website for further details.
Who should vote on this agreement?
BECTU is balloting its freelance membership in its two "production divisions" (see below) on this proposed agreement. The union has selected the branches that are very likely to have members who are affected by it, and - on the ballot paper - members will be asked to vote only if they believe that they are likely to be directly affected by it.
The productions that are directly affected by the agreement are scripted single TV dramas, scripted series and serial drama (excluding continuing drama / soaps) produced in the UK for all TV platforms. This includes Children's drama, narrative comedy, shorts and pilots. A full list of inclusions and exclusions can be found in the Agreement.
The agreement will apply to people who work in "shooting crew" and their support workers (including grips, lighting etc, the "prep and wrap departments" (including hair, costume, locations etc), "construction crew", people who work in production, post-production and other off-set workers such as the Art Department.
For the avoidance of doubt, this agreement does NOT apply to Line Producers or Production Managers, and it does NOT apply to writers, producers or directors. BECTU will only consult its Writers Producers and Directors Branch because some of the members of that branch occasionally also work in other production roles that are directly affected by the Agreement.
London Production Division Consultation
BECTU will use a secret ballot to formally consult each of the following London Production Division (LPD) Branches.
- Art department
- Assistant directors holding
- Camera department
- Certified grips & crane techs
- Costume & wardrobe
- Grips and crane technicians holding
- Lighting technicians
- Locations department branch
- Media hair and makeup
- Post production and facilities
- Production supervision
- Runners holding branch
- Sculptors branch
- Set crafts
- Special effects
- Uncertified grips & crane techs
- Writers producers and directors
LPD members who are in branches that are not included in this list, but who work in these craft areas, and who believe that they should be able to vote on this agreement will have the option to request a move into one of the branches that is being consulted before ballot forms are sent out. This can be done by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your membership number and an explanation of why you should be moved into a different branch. Members are urged to check which branch they are in before noon on Tuesday 2nd May 2017, and to act accordingly.
Regional Production Division Consultation
BECTU will use a secret ballot to formally consult each of the following Regional Production Division (RPD) Freelance Branches.
- East Anglia
- East Midlands
- North Wales
- North West
- Northern Ireland
- Scottish Freelance
- South Wales
- South Western
- Southern Ireland
- West Midlands
- Yorks & Humberside
Everyone who is a member of these branches at noon on Tuesday 2nd May 2017 will be eligible to participate in a ballot. The ballots will go out on week commencing 8th May 2017 and the closing date will be three weeks later (FRIDAY 26TH MAY 2017, AT NOON). All members who have given BECTU their email address will be asked to vote online. A small minority of members have not given the union an email address and they will be balloted by post.
All members are advised strongly to check if they are receiving regular emails from BECTU, and that they are receiving a copy of Stage Screen & Radio (the union magazine). Anyone not getting these mailings may well need to correct their email / postal address with BECTU's systems. They are strongly advised to do so before noon on Tuesday 2nd May 2017.
The ballot will be independently managed by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS).
There will be a statement at the top of the ballot that says:
NB this is guidance to ERS who will apply their standard questioning format on the ballot paper.
Rates in TV Drama
The Pact-BECTU 2017 TV Drama Agreement
If the Agreement is accepted, an Implementation Date of 6 months from the signing date will be set, where participating producers are expected to apply the Terms & Conditions as a whole.
The next step would be to agree Rates.
Why does the Agreement not have Rates attached to it?
It was decided at the beginning of the TV Drama talks that Terms & Conditions discussions should be conducted separately to Rates discussions for a number of reasons.
- Pact and BECTU feel it is important to produce a timetable that allows producers the maximum opportunity to understand the impact of the significant changes brought about by the agreement and in particular the shift to contracting on a daily rate basis.
- It would be financially difficult to implement Rates and T&Cs at the same time. The new T&Cs will mean additional costs for Producers and with budgets set months in advance, time is needed to plan and implement the agreed changes in stages.
- In 2013, PACT put forward a proposal for feature films which incorporated a Grade Ladder and Rate card that created so much controversy, it overshadowed all the T&Cs. Even with ACAS involvement, talks had stalled until very recently.
- Most importantly, it ensured that rates were still able to be discussed and updated independently rather than being held fixed for a number of years until full T&Cs were produced, agreed and voted on.
When do rates get agreed?
Pact and BECTU are committed to a timetable that will ensure formal talks on rates begin 6 months from Implementation Date. The aim will be to produce a set of agreed minimum rates for each Grade per budget band. Time is needed to allow accurate data collection and to ensure that budgets can be adjusted to meet any increased costs.
As part of this process, BECTU branches/members will need to submit their Rates based on criteria such as Grade, hours and budget bands etc. If these figures are collected quickly, the final process of agreeing the actual rates will proceed more smoothly.
Why will it take this long?
- There will be a lot of data to process; 10 and 11 hour on camera deals for each grade across every department for each budget band, will require a huge amount of work.
- The cost implications need to be budgeted for and given time to be applied.
- An ongoing renegotiation process for future pay claims needs to be established.
Everyone already knows the rates, why not use them?
The current rates will, of course, be taken into account, but the Agreement allows for higher budget rates to be negotiated locally, as some shows are already doing, but no data has yet been compiled to aid choosing specific figures.
Likewise, no data is held on the lower band.
In the past, deadlines have been slightly vague, however, subject to the Agreement being accepted, there will be a very clear timetable in place that both Pact and BECTU will commit to.