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UK scripted productions ‘not financially viable’ if Bectu rejects offer, say indies

UK producers say the country’s entire scripted TV sector “risks being damaged” if the members of broadcasting trade union Bectu reject the latest deal offer from trade body Pact.

Philippa Childs

“Financial modelling suggests that many productions will not be financially viable under the terms Bectu have posted via their branches,” read the letter addressed to all crew members working on projects covered by the current Pact/Bectu UK TV drama agreement. It was signed and supported by more than 70 companies and disseminated by Pact.

UK indies called the letter an “unusual step” but said that its offer was “bold and progressive” and would result in a better work-life balance for everyone working on set.

The proposals were formally put to Bectu members earlier this week, with voting set to finish on Sunday.

The key points being voted on include provisions stating that a standard filming day should be restricted to a maximum of 10 hours on camera plus an hour for lunch; a producer penalty should be introduced for any shoot days beyond five days in a working week; bank holidays should be paid at double time if worked; if a crew member works beyond their contracted hours and goes over to complete a shot, they should be paid for this time as overtime; the overtime cap should be increased to £70 per hour, with the £35 per hour floor retained to protect lower-paid crew.

The letter comes after Bectu head Philippa Childs on Monday urged union members to refuse the offer, arguing that it does not adequately distinguish the boundaries between working time and personal time and lacks the “detail and clarity necessary for our members to feel confident that their concerns have been addressed.”

Pact and Bectu have been in negotiations for almost a year but have reached an impasse over multiple deal terms. Over the past week, the spat has spilled into the public domain, with both sides issuing statements.

The current deal is set to expire on September 1, after which new productions will not be covered by the existing Pact/Bectu deal.

Bectu refutes Pact’s assertion that the deal on the table is the best offer possible. Earlier in the week, Childs said: “Pact have had six months to get around the table and provide a revised offer that is clear in its interpretation and negotiate on points of disagreement with a view to reaching agreement. Instead they chose to publish to the press a revised offer just hours after it was sent to the union, undermining Bectu representatives who have a key role to play here.

“Pact have been clear they want to keep discussions open on the terms following the ballot, but are now indicating the collective agreement will fall away if our members reject the offer. Bectu remains committed to reaching a negotiated settlement and we call upon the members of Pact to get back to the table and refrain from unhelpful public statements whilst we seek to find a way through.”

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