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UK’s Bectu calls for “urgent” government summit to address freelancer crisis

UK creative industries union Bectu has called for the government to summon an urgent industry summit to address a “crisis” among film and TV freelancers.


The creative industry union’s head Philippa Childs wrote an open letter to the government’s culture secretary Lucy Frazer, asking for a summit “bringing together broadcasters, industry stakeholders and government, to discuss the crisis and possible solutions”. 


Childs continued: “The future of our much loved and globally revered film and TV industry, and one of the UK’s economic heavyweights, depends on urgent and joined up action. The workforce, who underpin the sector’s success, must have a seat at the table.”


The letter included the results of Bectu’s February survey which found 68% of respondents were currently not working and 34% had had less than a month’s work since the US strikes ended in November 2023.


This is only marginally down from its survey in September 2023, during the strikes, where 74% were reported as out of work while 80% were directly impacted. 


“The pandemic exposed for the whole industry the vulnerability of the workforce when times become tough, and work dries up,” Bectu’s letter also noted. “Far too many freelancers fell between the gaps of Covid-related government support schemes, and many workers tell us the current situation is even worse.”


Childs also noted Frazer’s recent comments about the UK’s “booming” creative industries and how it did not reflect the current reality. ”Whilst I appreciate that you were referencing 2022 figures, the harsh reality for tens of thousands of industry workers is far from the production boom of 2022,” Childs added. 


Of the 4,000 workers polled, 58% said they had not seen a recovery in their employment since the SAG-AFTRA strike ended. A further 80% were concerned about their financial security over the next six months while 37% said they were planning on leaving the industry within the next five years – up from 24% in September. Those in work dropped even further in the east midlands, where it was only 18%, and the north east where it was reported as 21%. Those struggling with their mental health was also polled at 75% of workers. 


The news comes amidst the ongoing film and high-end TV inquiry by the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee.


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