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Bectu and Pact drama negotiations break down

Union moves to terminate existing agreement in six months

Bectu and Pact negotiations over pay and working conditions in drama have broken down, with the union planning to terminate the existing agreement in six months.

Bectu national secretary Spencer MacDonald wrote to Pact on 1 March to confirm that the union intends to leave the agreement on 1 September, following a vote by its representatives.

MacDonald acknowledged that the “complicated and wide-ranging” negotiations have resulted in “some constructive concessions” and set out his preference to continue to engage in talks during the transitional period.

In its response, Pact said that six of Bectu’s nine requests had either been met or received a compromise position.

“The termination of the entire agreement is made more questionable [Pact] had offered a number of terms that would demonstrably improve work-life balance of crew,” it said.

One of the primary sticking points of the negotiations is understood to revolve around staff levels of pay and overtime.

Pact set out concerns that Bectu is not taking into consideration the impact of its requests on producers making mid and low-cost drama.

“There has been a fixation of high-end TV series drama for US SVoD platforms but our agreement has been broad and must work for every type of drama production including our members who produce PSB content for children; indies producing scripted in Welsh and our indigenous comedy producers,” it said.

Pact head of legal and business affairs Max Rumney added: “Everything can’t just become more expensive because then public service drama becomes unmakeable and that repercussions in terms of training people, many of whom start out on smaller dramas.”

He believes that hopes that there is “a genuine desire” to come to a resolution.

“It would be a great shame for the agreement to terminate,” he said. “It protects the people at the bottom and without it, it will be very difficult to make sure deals are fair.”

In a statement, head of Bectu Philippa Childs said that the primary goal is to achieve a better work/life balance for members.

“The mental health and wellbeing of crew is a priority for our members, and we will continue to stand behind them to demand healthier working conditions.

“The Covid-19 pandemic drew a line in the sand when it comes to working conditions in film and TV and the skills shortages across the industry make it crucial that the industry does better. The 24/7 film and TV culture is unrealistic and damaging to worker mental health, and we urgently need to reset the industry’s culture and ways of working.

“The sector’s strongest asset is its incredible talent and employers need to step up to commit to promoting the welfare of their staff.”

The negotiations began in the autumn after 2000 Bectu members signed an open letter to Pact, accusing its members of reneging the 2017 drama agreement, which they claimed should have been renegotiated in 2019.

The breakdown in negotiations was first reported by Deadline.


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