Unions representing non-fiction TV workers in Canada and the United Kingdom are joining forces this week to highlight the problems with working conditions in the sector, including health and safety.
The Canadian Media Guild (CMG) and BECTU, the media and entertainment union in the U.K., delivered principles aimed at improving the situation to production and broadcast executives at an industry conference in London.
Workers in the U.K. and Canada have reported similar concerns about unreasonable working hours, unpaid time and lack of safety in non-fiction/factual production.
"Right now, this is an unsustainable sector of the production industry," says Carmel Smyth, national president of the Canadian Media Guild. "People are burning out and getting hurt. They're telling us they want a voice and standards so they can earn a living making programming for years to come. We're eager to sit down with production companies and discuss how to make it better."
The principles the two unions are presenting, which are also supported by the Writers Guild of America East, are modelled on the Code of Practice that BECTU developed in 2013 to improve working conditions for factual workers in the U.K.
"Factual production is an increasingly important part of U.K., and now global, broadcast content and yet working conditions remain sub-standard. Excessive working hours, inadequate rest time and poor health and safety management continue to top the list of workers' concerns here. It's time for all employers in the sector to take their responsibilities more seriously. The industry talks about production values that should also include the ethics of programme-making from the workers' point of view," said Sharon Elliott, BECTU's communications officer.
Together the unions are seeking the following commitments from production companies:
• pay people fairly for the work they do
• offer reasonable working hours
• give reasonable time off, including appropriate paid time off
• make the safety and health of everyone involved a top priority for each production and make sure everyone has what they need to work safely (including, where appropriate, quality, affordable health insurance)
• negotiate terms with workers and/or their union in good faith and a timely manner and seal it with a written contract
• do not issue penalties or reprisals against workers who are represented by a union or guild.