Saturday, June 15, 2024

Unions, Industry Bodies & Governments Agree On Framework To Protect Entertainment Workers’ Rights After Crunch Talks In Europe

Must read

EXCLUSIVE: Major international arts and entertainment unions, employers, industry bodies and governments have agreed on their first framework for a decade to improve workers’ rights after a week of tough negotiations in Europe.

The high-level technical meeting, which took place February 13-17 at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, was the first for the entertainment biz since 2014, according to the UNI Global Union. The ILO is a United Nations agency that tries to make work fairer and more just.

First signs from the meeting were of a positive outcome and a blueprint aimed at addressing ‘decent work deficits’ has been forged which includes limiting working time; providing all staff workers and freelancers universal access to comprehensive social protections systems and using public funding to close skills shortages.

Representing more than 1M workers, reps from the likes of Bectu, IATSE and SAG-AFTRA attended the talks, along with the European Broadcasting Union and the International Federation of Film Producers’ Associations.

Government ministers from several European Union countries, Africa, Asia and Latin America were also present to sign off on the historic blueprint, although no one from either the UK or U.S. governments attended.

The group debated issues such as long hours, low pay and inequalities before drawing their conclusions, which place heavy emphasis on collective bargaining as a tool to improving work conditions.

Philippa Childs, Head of the UK broadcasting union Bectu, and Vice President of UNI Global Union’s Media Entertainment & Arts sector (UNI MEI), said: “We’ve made a lot of progress, and these conclusions will enable us to put pressure on employers and governments around the key items on our agenda, particularly the issue of long hours in our industries.

“The pandemic gave workers a chance to reflect, and really think about the impact of long and unsustainable hours on their work-life balance. Many have left the industry and it’s uncertain they will return, leading to the skills shortage that we have in the UK and globally. We need to improve working conditions and opportunities if we are to turn this situation around.”

Streaming rights and safer work environments

The way in which producers, performers and authors are more effectively remunerated for their work for global streamers was another key issue on the agenda. Today’s move emphasizes the importance of copyright and related rights and calls on governments to ensure payment is fair.

The emergence of AI and new technologies were also discussed at the talks, with SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, saying “Artificial intelligence offers extraordinary possibilities but poses real threats,” as he called for a “human-centred approach.”

Among other provisions, the blueprint calls for strong labour inspection systems to ensure safe and healthy working environments, including addressing violence and harassment ; and investment to create a greener industry. Broadly, inequality in the sector should be dealt with “through a lens of diversity, equality and inclusion,” today’s document reads.

The blueprint will be approved at an ILO meeting next month, at which point it becomes an official document.

As the talks kicked off last week, Johannes Studinger, Head of UNI Global Union’s Media & Entertainment sector, had told Deadline: “The arts and entertainment industries are wrestling with new business models and modes of distribution, but the question for the workers who make these productions is how can changes be done fairly.”

Today, John Lewis, International Vice President at IATSE in Canada, called the outcome “a positive result.”

“What this does is create a starting point to launch other discussions with nation governments to improve access to collective bargaining, to enhance copyright protection and to address long working hours, which impacts everybody across the globe working in this industry,” he added.

The news comes as workers’ rights returned to the spotlight this month, after the latest Looking Glass survey from the UK’s Film & TV Charity suggested the cost of living crisis was putting up to 35,000 workers in the country at financial risk. In more positive news, the survey revealed 80% of respondents agreed they sensed positive change to the industry’s culture and behavior. In the U.S., the WGA and DGA are headed for crunch contract negotiations with the AMPTP that could shape the industry for years to come.

Globally, many entertainment industry workers have been impacted by Covid-19 in recent years, with many companies downsizing or spending less on freelance. Issues such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and inflated living costs have caused further damage to economies.

There have been high-profile strikes at companies such as Amazon over workers rights in recent, and the U.S. is currently staring in the face of a writers’ strike in a dispute over residuals.

Latest article