A new survey from UK film and TV union Bectu lays bare the effect of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA industrial disputes in the US on the UK’s film and TV workforce.
Nearly 4000 freelance film and TV workers outlined the impact the strike action has had on their employment, finances and mental health.
Responses came from film and TV workers across the UK, including behind-the-scenes crew such as camera operators and costume designers, as well as background artists and fashion workers who style actors.
Three quarters of survey respondents are currently not working and 80% have had their employment directly impacted by the US industrial disputes.
9 in 10 are worried about their financial security, and 6 in 10 reported struggling with their mental health as a result of loss of work and/or financial worries.
Other key findings include:
35% are struggling to pay household bills, rent or mortgages
15% have taken out a loan or other unsecured debt to pay bills
1 in 10 are considering moving in with parents or other family to help with costs
Nearly a quarter said they did not see themselves working in the industry in the next 5 years
Comments from the survey include:
“I lost my job while pregnant and I don’t qualify for maternity pay either. The loss of my job has put great stress and anxiety on my first pregnancy. I am so disheartened by the industry and how disposable we are to productions. We have not heard anything from the production since our last day of work in July.”
“I don’t see myself continuing to work in this industry. Situations like this cause so much stress financially on top of the stress the industry can already have while you’re working. It’s so volatile and you do need tough skin and a plan. I know a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck. The industry was flooded with more work and more workers after lockdown and now there’s no work.”
“After being one of the forgotten many who fell through the cracks during the pandemic and received absolutely no financial support from the government, to now be in an even worse financial position is mind blowing and infuriating. I’ve spent so long surviving instead of thriving, and I’m tired.”
Commenting on the survey results, Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said:
“Much of the rhetoric surrounding the US dispute is about the actors, but as our survey shows the impact on crew and other film and TV workers is severe and cannot be underestimated.
“This is a workforce that has already faced incredible hardship throughout and following the pandemic, and has now been hit by a second crisis in just a few years. Many of our members have been laid off from productions under ‘force majeure’ clauses with little notice or pay, and with 6 in 10 respondents telling us they are struggling with their mental health, it’s clear the impact also extends beyond financial insecurity.
“The number of freelancers questioning their future in the industry should sound alarm bells. For too long we have seen a pattern of engaging crew where they are picked up and dropped again with little notice, protection or reassurances about future employment. They are often the first to suffer and the hardest hit when production is impacted.
“This is a fight with many of the same employers who frequently undervalue crew in the UK, and therefore our solidarity with US actors and writers is important for raising standards domestically and globally. However, there is no getting around the very real and devastating impact on UK workers.
“The government is vocal about the huge cultural and economic value of the creative industries; it must put its money where its mouth is and look after those who work in the sector. Likewise urgent industry collaboration and commitment from employers to support the freelance workforce is critical if we want to UK to remain a cultural hub.”