Profits may be up 20% at its UK parent company, but ITV Studios America today found its relationship with the Writers Guild of America East taking a steep fall. As contract talks between the two parties grind on, the scribe guild claims that ITV Studios America has been depriving about 150 of its writers and producers of up to $30,000 a year in deserved overtime pay on its unscripted shows including A&E’s The First 48, Nat Geo Wild’s Cesar 911 and TLC’s Four Weddings. The WGA East says that up until two weeks ago, the Sherman Oaks- and NYC-based company has been making employees put in 60- to 80-hour weeks without any of the compensation that are entitled to under federal and state laws. Under pressure from the guild, the company began giving associate producers overtime pay two weeks ago and not retroactively. That’s only a partial solution, says the WGA East. “Companies like ITV simply cannot insist that employees devote every waking moment to the company, month in and month out,” said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson today. The situation at ITV Studios America comes as the WGA is taking a short break from its sometime-tense negotiations with the studios and the networks over a new 3-year contract.
Today’s barbed words also come more than three years after writers and producers at ITV voted for WGA East representation in December 2010. They also come over a year and a half after the company’s appeal over that vote and certification was denied by the National Labor Relation Board in September 2012. Despite both those move, there still is no WGA contract in place at ITV Studios America. “We are still at the bargaining table trying to reach agreement on a contract that would include paid time off, guaranteed days off for the field producers, overtime, employer-paid health benefits and basic protections like compensation minimums, union security and a grievance and arbitration provision,” Peterson told me today. While no one is threatening labor action at ITV yet, the sluggish talks are leaving many of the employees who voted for WGA East representation frustrated. “The company just hopes that worries about keeping our jobs will eventually cause our concerns and our demands to go away,” a source close to the situation told me. “They won’t, and if things escalate, so be it.”