British TV dramas could be affected by union dispute

The production of some British TV dramas could soon be shelved due to a trade union dispute between two key organisations in the sector.

UK TV production studio

The production of some British TV dramas could soon be shelved due to a trade union dispute between two key organisations in the sector.

As reported in The Guardian, the trade union Bectu – which represents over 40,000 people in the media and entertainment industries and is a division of the Prospect trade union – is asking its members to reject new industry-wide working conditions being proposed. 

The union argues that people working in the sector, many of whom are freelance, are already suffering due to the long hours it demands. Unlike other disputes that have taken place this summer, their main gripe is more about working conditions and long hours than specifically pay. 

However, production companies say they’ve already offered new terms and have warned that some UK television dramas might have to be cut, or will be lost to other countries, in the event of a more generous offer.

The Crown

Pact, the trade organisation that represents TV production companies, is said to have offered a reduction in the standard working day from 11 to 10 hours; double pay for bank holiday work; and additional payments for those who need to prepare and pack up after a shoot (addressing the issue of “prep and wrap” time frequently being unpaid).  

Max Rumney, Pact’s deputy chief executive, told The Guardian, that financial modelling being carried out by producers “makes clear many productions will not be shot in the UK under the increased costs from Bectu’s alternative proposals – damaging a production ecosystem that has made the UK one of the best places in the world to make television.” 

As with all these such disputes, which have taken place throughout our transport, teaching, hospital and other services this summer, the other side of the argument disagrees, and has reportedly accused Pact of not fully engaging.  

Philippa Childs, the head of Bectu, said that Pact “has had six months to get around the table and provide a revised offer that is clear in its interpretation and negotiate on points of disagreement with a view to reaching agreement.

production begins on a film set

“Bectu remains committed to reaching a negotiated settlement,” she added, “and we call upon the members of Pact to get back to the table and refrain from unhelpful public statements whilst we seek to find a way through.” 

Earlier this year, negotiations between the two unions failed, with Bectu giving Pact until 1 September to end the existing agreement. If a new deal isn’t struck before that date then every British TV drama production company will be able to offer and strike its own employment terms with individual employees. 

As with other major ongoing disputes, it doesn’t look like this one’s going away anytime soon. (At least not until 1 September that is).

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