the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

18 August 2009

BBC Scotland has reached an agreement with BECTU which will see backpay paid to camera trainees and to freelances who worked on the last two series of River City.

Following talks the BBC has accepted that production management undercut the BECTU agreement and forced trainees to accept lower rates of pay.

In addition, the Corporation has acknowledged that  freelances were not properly compensated for overruns. BECTU has advised its freelance members to submit claims for the monies owed.

The agreement should pave the way for a smoother production operation, with safeguards in place to ensure that all terms and conditions will comply with union agreements. As a result of recent talks:

  • all contracts will be scrutinised to make sure that they comply with BECTU agreements;
  • discussions will continue to produce an agreement on how trainees are to be deployed;
  • working hours will be monitored.

Shooting on the next series of River City is due to start before the end of August. Follow-up discussions will take place with BECTU to further develop the agreement.

Commenting on the breakthrough, Scottish organiser, Paul McManus, said: 

“There has been a great deal of talk amongst freelances in Scotland about what can be done to stop producers from bullying members into accepting low rates of pay and poor conditions.

"BECTU has demonstrated here that we can make a difference for freelances and that we can improve their pay and conditions.

"I know these members, like freelances everywhere, are very nervous about raising concerns formally in case producers hold a grudge against them, but the courage our members on River City have shown has brought results and the positive and constructive response we have received from management at BBC Scotland's drama department is also much welcomed.”

Paul McManus will be visiting the River City studios at Dumbarton on 27 August to discuss contract issues in detail with members.

BECTU has been representing workers on the production since it started some seven years ago and talks have not always been straightforward.

In January this year a dispute was resolved with agreement on the introduction of a third camera unit supported by additional measures to provide staff with adequate rest breaks.