PACT changes proposed

BECTU members are being consulted on proposed changes to the PACT Freelance Agreement.

This follows the conclusion of negotiations with PACT, the association of independent film and TV production companies, which has resulted in a package of planned changes to the Freelance Production Agreement.

The union believes that the proposals are important for all freelances working in film and television, and is asking members to provide feedback as soon as possible.

It is intended a postal ballot of affected BECTU members will be conducted in September 2003 to make the final decision on the acceptability of the proposals.

The main points of the proposed package are:

  • Redefinition of the agreed minimum rates as "recommended minimums".
  • Employer pension contribution: PACT have proposed the principle of a 4% employer contribution for members with BECTU Stakeholder Pension plans, in addition to the rate of pay. The union believes this is a real breakthrough - employer contributions to freelance pensions are virtually unknown.
  • Pay: A cost-of-living-related rise in rates is in prospect - the exact figure will depend on the date at which the agreement is confirmed.
  • Tackling low pay: BECTU have negotiated a recommended minimum rate of pay for runners. Currently many runners work unpaid or may receive the National Minimum Wage. Now they will be able to refer to a figure which is 33% higher than the National Minimum Wage.
  • Contractual paperwork: Employers operating under the agreement will provide written contracts, or at least a deal memo, on or before the first day of each job. This will help avoid the common situation where a freelance reaches a verbal agreement on a job then finds that the reality is very different, but has no paperwork to fall back on.
  • New grades: Armourers, modelmakers and crane technicians have been added to the ratecard.
  • Working abroad: A revised Overseas Insurance Schedule with improved levels of accident and medical cover.
  • Early warning systems: PACT will supply BECTU with better and earlier pre-production information, including information on production finance. This should help the union spot potentially risky productions with inadequate funds and alert members who may work on them.
  • Managing disputes: A clearer disputes procedure is proposed so that when serious arguments arise they can be dealt with efficiently and reach a clear resolution.
BECTU believes that this package taken as a whole represents clear progress.

For over a decade the agreement with PACT on rates of pay has been based on minimums. The agreement sets a minimum rate of pay for each grade, while also spelling out that individuals are free to negotiate higher personal rates.

Since this arrangement was put in place, most BECTU freelances working on high and medium budget features, network TV drama, and other high-value productions have consistently earned well above PACT rates.

But in other areas, where the advent of multi-channel TV has put pressure on costs, low pay is rife, with members regularly paid below the PACT/BECTU minimum. It is because of this the union believes that agreeing a minimum rate does not automatically prevent low pay.

Additionally low paid workers are doubly disadvantaged because employers on low budgets ignore the whole agreement. Such workers get low pay, and also miss out on conditions covering hours of work, travel arrangements, rest breaks, sickness and so on.

BECTU wants more PACT companies to use the agreement so that these workers get more protection.

The union is therefore proposing to redefine the rates on the ratecard as recommended minimums. This means that a low-budget producer who pays below the recommended level still has an incentive to use the agreement so that members benefit from all the other conditions.

The intention is to hold a joint review with PACT one year after the introduction of the new recommended minimums arrangement.

22 May 2003
Amended 27 May 2003
Amended 10 June 2003