EXCLUSIVE: A rift with shades of last year’s IATSE/AMPTP conflict has broken out between UK broadcasting union Bectu and producer trade body Pact, after negotiations collapsed over a drama agreement that governs working conditions.
Deadline can reveal that Bectu has served Pact with a notice to terminate the Bectu/Pact TV Drama Agreement in six months’ time if demands over certain sticking points aren’t met. The union has informed members in the last hour.
The pair have been negotiating since the Autumn over terms that were first forged in 2017 and set out best practice for Pact’s drama company member base in areas such as base rates of pay, hours, travel expenses and dealing with complaints.
Both parties have said they are willing to return to the negotiating table over the coming months but, if no agreement is struck, drama production companies will be free to set their own terms from September 1 onwards.
Deadline understands sticking points have arisen in areas such as the maximum number of working hours per day during filming and “prep and wrap,” the amount of time spent preparing for a shoot and dismantling a set.
While Bectu wants the learnings from the Covid pandemic around mental health and wellbeing to be applied to the formal agreement, Pact is concerned in some instances over the additional cost to its member base.
In a letter to Bectu responding to its decision to terminate the agreement, Pact Senior Business Affairs Executive Conrad Mewton said “there has been a fixation on high-end TV series for US SVoD platforms” during the negotiations, when the agreement needs to cover all types of drama including lower-budget shows such as children’s and nations and regions.
Mewton said Pact had agreed to Bectu’s position or offered a compromize on six of the union’s nine sticking points.
Bectu Head Philippa Childs told Deadline: “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.
“While some constructive concessions have been made, we are committed to exploring how the agreement can ensure a much improved work/life balance for our members and hope to continue the negotiations to a successful conclusion during the notice period.”
Pact Vice Chair Max Rumney pointed to the additional pressures placed on indies by the pandemic, however.
“For the last two years, independent producers have largely spent their own revenues putting in place Covid safety protocols and paying for suspensions in production,” he added, stating that the “financially uncertain times” will only worsen when the UK government’s Film and TV Production Restart Scheme winds down at the end of next month.
The negotiations, which were co-ordinated by Rumney and Mewton, along with the Heads of Production of a large number of UK indies and Bectu officials, felt somewhat doomed from the start.
Prior to their kicking off in October 2021, around 2,000 Bectu members wrote an open letter to Pact accusing indies of reneging on the 2017 agreement, resulting in “detrimental terms and longer contracted hours,” while slamming Pact for repeatedly delaying the renegotiation.
The whole conflict has shades of the high-stakes IATSE/AMPTP saga last October, which saw film and TV production almost come to a standstill in the U.S. following a similar breakdown in negotiations.
The issue was eventually resolved. Bectu/Pact execs may be looking to their U.S. counterparts for a way around this current conflict.
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