17 July 2018
In a significant advance for industrial relations in film the first ever Major Motion Picture Agreement (MMPA), covering budgets from £30m up, came into effect on 1 April 2018, writes BECTU national secretary, Spencer MacDonald.
*Latest information for those concerned about the issues covered here: an open meeting will be held on Saturday 8 September at BECTU's London HQ from 10.30. Visit Eventbrite to book a space.*
The fact that the agreement took some five years to achieve is evidence of the significant challenges associated with codifying terms across all departments in a high stakes, international, project-led industry subject to peaks and troughs and the global economic climate.
However, BECTU stood firm during the many twists and turns of the negotiations, convinced that order and transparency, based on collective bargaining, would benefit this vital sector and deliver greater and fairer reward to the UK’s committed workforce amongst whom are thousands of BECTU members.
It is hugely disappointing therefore for BECTU to learn, as the agreement continues to bed in, that some sections of the workforce might be losing out. We’ve picked up complaints on social media that the change to the overtime rate – moving away from a universal flat rate of £50 an hour on camera, and £35 an hour off camera – to 1.5T (time and half – off camera) and 2T (double time – on camera) based on an individual’s hourly rate is leading to a loss in income for some. Overtime payments now apply as soon as overtime starts. It has been said that this loss of overtime income affects runners and assistants upwards, stopping where the daily rate is circa £250. We’re examining the claims and are open to receiving more feedback. (Please see below).
By way of background, in the very detailed and prolonged discussions which resulted in the agreement - voted in by 87.61% of BECTU members in a ballot last November – negotiators ran several financial models to consider the impact of the planned changes on incomes. For BECTU the challenge was to demonstrate improvements in earnings overall; for employers the models helped to demonstrate affordability.
That financial modelling did reveal that approximately 10% of the workforce – the lowest paid – would lose out as a result of the change in the way overtime would be calculated. HOWEVER, it was expected that other across-the-board improvements covering night work, 6th & 7th day working, time off the Clock (TOC), meal break penalties, restricted prep & wrap, pre-dawn calls, 2T on bank holidays if worked and the removal of the grace period would compensate for any loss resulting from the end of the flat overtime rates.
Hourly rates are key
Furthermore, union representatives, from several departments, who were party to the talks expressed a clear preference for a set of conditions which used the basic hourly rate, taking into account the ambitions to grow this, as the key building block in take home pay rather than the continued use of flat overtime rates, not connected to basic pay, which actually had the effect of depressing the hourly rate for the lower paid.
It was also reported to us that in some instances overtime worked wasn’t being claimed to conceal excessive working hours. (Another campaigning issue for the union through #EyesHalfShut). In weighing up the pros and cons, career progression was also considered, it being the case that those starting out could expect to secure promotion within 2-3 years, with additional hourly earnings securing greater onward benefits due to improvements built in to the agreement.
So, contrary to the claims expressed on social media, the impact of the changes was considered across all departments, although it has to be said that runners, picking just one grade, fielded a representative at the early stage of the talks but were not consistently represented directly thereafter. The union appealed to branches repeatedly to ensure that their representatives played an active part in the talks.
That said, we conducted these talks in a transparent manner and tried our very best to look at all of the issues from a number of perspectives. The charge that the union’s officials have let certain grades down is not borne out by the talks themselves; as with the vast majority of negotiations conducted across our union, our officials led the talks with active support from branch representatives representing their members. Our representation of members’ interests is our greatest responsibility and, as has been said previously, the consultative ballot which secured the new agreement produced a vote of 87.61% in favour.
Do get involved
To those in the industry whose experience is that the MMPA is not working for them, we strongly encourage you to get involved in our internal discussions, and to join BECTU to do this if you are not already a member.
We’re about to release a new survey for runners to secure data to show the differences in pay prior to 1 April 2018 and since; the data will also inform an update to the recommended rate card. If you're a runner and would like to contribute contact organising official, Emily Collin. If you’d like to see us survey other groups besides runners, let us know.
The MMPA is a ‘living’ document which will be subject to review. We’ll be meeting employers’ representatives in early 2019 but we will begin our preparation for those talks by consulting representatives on the changes they’d like to see beginning in the autumn.
With best wishes
Spencer MacDonald, National Secretary
To join BECTU visit www.bectu.org.uk/join
To share with us your experience of the new agreement, to become more active in the negotiations or to comment on this letter, drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org with MMPA 2018 as the subject line.
To read more about the latter stages of the process visit:
(NB:There are also several key documents attached to the above pages; scroll down to access them (or use the link to Downloads top left of the screen if working from a pc).
NB: Whilst the MMPA sets out terms and conditions it does not set rates of pay. To view our recommended rates of pay for key departments visit these pages - https://www.bectu.org.uk/advice-resources/rates
Query about this article? Contact us.
Story updated 13 August 2018 to confirm plans for an open meeting in September. Details to follow.