the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect
BECTU urges  'respect at work' clause in response to Weinstein

22 November 2017

BECTU is urging employers in film and TV production to introduce a 'respect at work' clause into all contracts to promote workplaces free from bullying and harassment.

The proposal is set out in a letter to several industry bodies, including PACT, BFI, BAFTA, British Screen Advisory Council, Women in Film & TV, Raising Films and the Cinema Television Benevolent Fund, which highlights the disadvantages which freelancers face should they experience bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment. 

The ruthlessness of abusers who exploit those who rely on them for work has been brought to the forefront of national and global debate by a series of revelations, which started in October, with accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Whilst employees can be inhibited when it comes to raising these issues, the large majority have the advantage of employment, time in the working day and support in the workplace to address their concerns. That said, more needs to be done to support sufferers, the majority of them women, to address abuse in the workplace. BECTU will be working with the employers we deal with to ensure that policies governing bullying and harassment for staff are both accessible and fit for purpose.

Freelancers, however, have no security of employment and time-limited engagements, long days and work on location must present serious barriers for workers who in other circumstances would raise complaints about mistreatment in the workplace. 

Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU, has written to sections of the film and TV industry to request an urgent review and the adoption, for starters, of a 'respect at work' clause in all contracts to signal zero tolerance of bullying and harassment. The union also asks film and TV employers to consider a welfare review after each production to help to bring any issues to the attention of production management.

BECTU has invited industry representatives to take part in a pan-industry discussion  without delay. The full text of BECTU's letter is set out below. 

 

production constraints cannot be an excuse for not addressing the welfare of the workforce

 

"Dear

Sexual Harassment in Film and TV

I’m sure we’ve all been following the Weinstein scandal and its aftermath with concern for what this says about our own UK film and TV sectors. Is our industry doing enough to provide a ‘workplace’ which offers dignity for all, free from bullying and harassment? What can we do to encourage those who suffer mistreatment to come forward and how can we support them?

In the BECTU Sector of Prospect (BECTU merged with Prospect on 1 January 2017) we have agreements which employers across the creative sectors which provide a clear framework for staff who choose to pursue complaints about abuse in the workplace. Some of these agreements will be reviewed now to make sure that they are as effective as possible. 

What concerns my union and our representatives at this point is how film and TV employers exercise their duty of care in this area for the freelancers they engage. Freelancers are critical to the success of UK production and so deserve to have their needs addressed (on an equal footing with staff) as employers and employers’ bodies across industry review their practice and procedures in this area.

Freelancers are vulnerable; there is little downtime to address human resource/employment issues which may occur during production; however, production constraints cannot be an excuse for not addressing the welfare of the workforce. If we fail to address this weakness in the current production system there is the risk that abusers will thrive and that those who suffer will experience long-term harm and a denial of the justice they deserve.

Time must be found either during the production schedule or afterwards to address worker complaints. Separate from any formal complaints, we also believe that employers/employers bodies should set up a collective welfare review after each production so that any issues can be brought to the surface. The review could ask these basic questions: how has this production run from a workforce point of view? Have there been any interpersonal issues requiring formal action? This welfare review could be part of the change and wouldn't affect an individual's legal rights.

To being to address the concerns, BECTU would like to propose a pan-industry approach in order to secure more support for freelancers working in film and TV production. We believe this approach is necessary also to promote the kind of workplace culture which establishes zero tolerance of bullying and harassment in the working environment.

We propose that industry bodies:

  • Introduce a ‘respect at work’ clause in all staff and freelancer contracts, such a clause being designed to commit the parties to working to deliver respect at work for all;
  • That this statement be widely distributed: on employers’ websites and in every crew room or work space, wherever they are located; 
  • That this statement be included in the Deal Memo which will be part of the new agreement for TV Drama which becomes effective on 1 December 2017; 
  • That this statement be inserted as an addendum to the new Major Motion Picture Agreement which BECTU expects to sign with PACT shortly. 

We also believe the industry should give consideration to funding a confidential helpline for the workforce to support those who need advice and support as a result of mistreatment. 

Furthermore, again to encourage worker confidence, and to signal change, we believe that all employers and employers’ bodies who are reviewing their policies and procedures for dealing with sexual harassment should share the policy with their staff and freelancers.   

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues at a suitable forum, and as soon as possible, as a precursor to broader industry-wide discussions about urgent action needed on equality under all headings.

Yours sincerely

Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU".

ENDS

Blog: It's not ok - and you don't have to put up with it by Sarah Ward, national secretary.

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