Bectu launch major campaign for urgent action in Unscripted

Further pressure on the industry to react as Bectu launch campaign for urgent action in Unscripted

We’re happy to share that Bectu have launched a new campaign, known as “We’re Worth It” – aimed at establishing an agreed set of terms and better regulation of working practices for UK freelancers working in unscripted television.

The union is calling out for urgent action on a number of the areas that have been raised by Production is Broken and other action groups in the Unscripted department in the past few years.

Long hours culture, freelancer health and safety and mental wellbeing are all referenced as key concerns of the union, who have also supported an open letter from a Bectu member to UK broadcasters and production companies.

The letter has gained over 1100 signatures, and is on behalf of freelancers from all departments – both editorial and production.

Philippa Childs, Head of Bectu

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said:  “For too long, freelancers working on unscripted TV programmes have battled unsustainable working hours, insecure employment and struggled to maintain a work/life balance. Many are at the point of burnout and considering leaving the industry they love.”

“Bectu is calling on the industry to prioritise and invest in those who are critical to its success – the thousands of talented freelancers who are the lifeblood of the UK’s thriving TV production sector. We will be engaging with the Producers’ Alliance for Cinema and Television, production companies and UK broadcasters to collaboratively tackle these issues and establish an agreed set of terms and conditions.”

“Our members are highly skilled and dedicated to their profession and they deserve to have their work hours appropriately compensated and to be able to sustain a family life and wellbeing.”

The fundamentals of the campaign

  • Pay Parity: Ensuring Production roles are paid the same as their editorial equivalents (as laid out in our Rate Negotiation Guide).

  • Talent Pipeline: We need to train the next generation up and lay pathways for freelancers to gain experience and level up. This is especially vital to ensure diversity of thought and life experience for those from underrepresented backgrounds.

  • 10-hour ruleA set maximum 10 hour working day when prepping and on shoots. Hours over this will be charged unless in exceptional circumstances a higher premium (buyout) rate has been agreed with the freelancer.

  • Prep & WrapShoot days to start as soon as the freelancer starts to travel to location – All prep work done before the shoot, or after the shoot is wrapped to be included in shoot hours.

  • Solo WorkingNo crew member to be required to be on location alone (unless under specifically agreed circumstances).

  • Rest breaks: Schedules must allow for rest breaks. If the legal length of break is not given, and compensatory rest is not provided, then this will be an additionally charged period of work.

  • Notice Periods & Cancellation FeeIf a contract is terminated before or after commencement through no fault of the freelancer, a pre-agreed payment will be required.

  • Rate ProtectionBroadcasters to ensure Production Companies protect freelancer rates and not reduce them to supplement the budget.

  • Workloads: Production teams especially have had additional burdens placed on them, many are at breaking point and require meaningful support to take the weight.

Production Executive and co-Chair of Bectu’s Unscripted TV Branch Viki Carter said: “The support for the open letter echoes what our members have been telling us – that working conditions in our part of the industry are unacceptable. That’s true whether you’re working on location or behind the scenes prepping and setting up shoots.” 

“Too often production and editorial teams are working long before the crew start and after they’ve wrapped – whether that’s runners setting up shoots, production colleagues still filming, or long hours in the office because a schedule that should’ve had 6 weeks prep has been cut to 4 to fit the budget.”

“Freelancers are critical to our industry – nothing gets made without them and they’re asking to be heard. It’s time the broadcasters and the indies started listening.”

Producer-Director in unscripted TV and Bectu member Anna Collins said:  “Like many unscripted freelancers, I had a particularly bad experience with a production company last year, which really highlighted the lack of protection for freelancers.”

“I absolutely love my job, and I am always willing to put in additional hours when needed. 

However, in such a casual working environment, it’s become common practice to exploit freelancers – our time and skills are expected to supplement poor budgets. We are often treated as disposable; contracts are cancelled last minute with no consideration or compensation for loss of earnings.”

“Our industry is fun and unique, but that doesn’t mean it should also be lawless, inequitable and unprofessional.” 

Series Producer and co-Chair of Bectu’s Unscripted TV Branch James Taylor said: “I have had countless freelancers working in unscripted TV come to me saying enough is enough and they are done with being treated like a second-class citizen.”

“We stand ready to engage with broadcasters and production companies to enact the necessary changes to ensure our industry continues to thrive.” 

You can find out more about Bectu’s #WorthIt campaign on the Unscripted Bectu website here.

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