National Living Wage will rise to £9.50 an hour

The 59p increase for workers over 23 – up 6.6% from £8.91 reflects the inflationary pressure outlined here a few weeks ago.

The new rates will rise from 1 April 2022 as follows:

  • National Living Wage for over-23s: From £8.91 to £9.50 an hour
  • National Minimum Wage for those aged 21-22: From £8.36 to £9.18
  • National Minimum Wage for 18 to 20-year-olds: From £6.56 to £6.83
  • National Minimum Wage for under-18s: From £4.62 to £4.81
  • The Apprentice Rate: From £4.30 to £4.81

Note – some of you may have missed that the age threshold for the top rate fell from 25 to 23 this year.

The current rates are here.

This may all look very generous at first glance, but a lot of it will get swallowed up by the tax/NIC rises, the universal credit cut that has just landed, and, of course, the higher energy and fuel bills that disproportionately hit low-income households, according to The Resolution Foundation. Continue reading

Posted in Economics, Inflation, Low pay, Minimum wage rates, National Insurance Contributions (NICs), Pay & inflation, Tax, Trades Unions, Wages and Pay-rates, Wealth inequality | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Drivers particularly badly hit by soaring costs

In news that will particularly hit film freelancers, car costs are soaring. Secondhand cars are costing up to 60% more than they did in 2019, and the price of petrol is climbing rapidly.

The weekly road fuel prices stats on the government website is showing that pump prices have climbed by over 23% in the last year (for some reason none of the reports marking a new record this week seemed to do a year-on-year comparison so this is my calculation)car fuel prices october 2021

All of this is good news from an environmental point of view, but the film industry is one that relies heavily on personal car use – a problem that is very difficult to challenge with the priority is to work extremely long days (the idea of co-ordinating bus journeys for people who are already having door-to-door workdays that last 14 or 15 hours is a complete non-starter).

Update: The RAC have a very good monitoring page here.

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Busy industry = unsafe industry?

An Australian study has revealed that economic growth following a period of recession has an impact on workplace injuries. This is particularly interesting in two respects for us at Bectu.

  1. The issue of skills fade in theatre and live events that were highlighted here – people returning to work after long periods of absence having lost many of their safety instincts
  2. The skill-shortage-related problem of inexperienced people being asked to act up in more senior positions – often positions that involved management and coordination.

Bectu has been advising branches on how to encourage productions to bring in skilled workers from abroad to deal with safety concerns wherever possible, due to a noticeable skills gap in safety-critical supervisory roles. I’ll be raising the safety issue as part of the BFI’s skills shortage review.

The Australian study is all covered in the SHP podcast here (h/t PIRC for the tip).

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Devaluing arts education

I don’t want to get too diverted into a focus into the general question of arts education, its status, and funding (we’re fighting on enough fronts already at the moment), but one of the post-Brexit realignments that are being talked about is a shift in focus away from the arts, and more towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

It’s a bit of a set-piece culture-war debate that kinda implies that being artsy, or ‘a luvvie’ is not a very British virtue.

However, as a succinct riposte to this…. Continue reading

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Halyna Hutchins – the latest film set tragedy

The BBC is rightly focusing on Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who died when reporting the incident involving Alec Baldwin and a prop gun in the latest tragedy on a film set.

It adds to the death of Sarah Jones, a Camera Assistant on Midnight Rider back in 2014, UK Camera Operator Mark Milsome (as covered here recently) and Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) who died in a similar incident to the one that resulted in Halyna’s death.

I’ve seen a few emails from Armourers in the union about the incident and the obvious consensus is that we need to wait upon the results of a full inquiry before speculating as to the cause.

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Bluffer’s guide: Cabotage

Everyone interested in touring or doing work abroad is likely to start talking about ‘cabotage’ at some point soon (if they haven’t already). See also ‘Carnet’ (watch this space!)

As a Seasoned Professional, you will need to be able to nod sagely and wonder aloud about what happens when a bus full of people is traveling from (European) town to town, or a truck carrying equipment from the UK to the site of a production within the EU.

Firstly, the word: The Guardian has been on Wikipedia so you won’t need to:

“Derived from the French verb caboter, meaning to sail along the coast, cabotage has taken place for centuries. It originally took place in the shipping industry, when foreign merchants would collect loads and drop them off within other countries.

Nowadays, “cabotage” is mostly used in conjunction with transport of goods by road. For example, if a Polish HGV brought goods to the UK and unloaded them, before subsequently collecting a new load in Newcastle that was transported to London, the second journey would be a cabotage leg.”

Cabotage is in the news at the moment because the UK government is proposing to allow trucks carrying goods from abroad to make unlimited stop-offs within the UK (having previously only allowed two stops within a seven-day period). Going the other way, the EU is very restrictive of British trucks. Continue reading

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IATSE briefs members on the proposed deal

The union is hosting a series of town hall meetings with members, along with this briefing on three key issues in a Twitter thread:

Continue reading

Posted in Factual & Entertainment sector data, Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, High End TV data, Trades Unions | Tagged | Leave a comment

Piracy of films is still a thing

The commonplace (one I’m occasionally guilty of repeating) that online piracy of movies is almost a non-issue now thanks to the emergence of competitively-priced streaming platforms is wrong, it seems.

The Global Innovation Policy Center is claiming that worldwide online piracy cost the U.S. economy between $29.9 billion and $71 billion in lost revenue each year. Sceptics may be forgiven for suggesting that this may be a lobbyist-inflated figure and I can’t comment on that, but it is surely still a factor (why would they invest so much in complaining about it if it weren’t?)

We can only speculate on how that affects two factors that Bectu members care about in particular:

  1. Is this hitting the amount of money that is invested in general in UK production?
  2. Is this having an impact on the ability of deficit-funded smaller budget productions to raise finance?

My finger in the air guess to these two questions is (1) probably not at the moment though it was a big deal in the past – capacity is the factor that is limiting that at the moment, and (2) probably – but it’s not clear how much. Continue reading

Posted in Copyright and piracy, Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, High End TV data | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

UK radio to get ‘discoverability’ boost on smart speakers

Regulators have a number of tools at their fingertips.

  • They can offer tax breaks linked to cultural tests.
  • They can tell TV channels that a percentage of their content should be made within a particular jurisdiction.
  • They can oblige distribution channels (could be a streamer, could be a TV station, could be a cinema distributor, etc) to invest a percentage of turnover in content that is produced in a particular jurisdiction, or material that passes certain cultural tests.

There are more, in the EU, they are underpinned by the AudioVisual Media Services Directive (AVMS) and you can see an overview of these here.

But an important one is also “discoverability”. If you are managing an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) on a TV set-top box, for example, these regulations ensure that content from Public Service Broadcasters is displayed prominently and isn’t crowded out by content that you would prefer to push.

There’s a good overview of how this applies in the UK here on the Ofcom site from October 2020.

And now Broadcast is reporting [£] that the DCMS will be… Continue reading

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General sense of wellbeing fell during the pandemic

The latest in a type of report that is best filed under “probably interesting in the long run, but hopelessly distorted by the pandemic” is the latest report from the ONS on levels of wellbeing and happiness in the UK (which have dropped to new lows during the period between April 2020 and March 2021).

This survey measures things like life satisfaction, anxiety, and the feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile. In terms of measuring trends, it’s hard to see how it can be very useful – just a glance at the graphs showing general trends will reveal dramatic shifts starting in spring 2020.

However, I’m making a note of it here anyway as it gives us a good glimpse into how the pandemic has affected us all if nothing else.

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Comprehensive European figures on women’s representation in TV drama

The key insights contained in the report are that, beyond obvious inequalities, there are remarkable differences in the gender balance within different types of professional activity in the sector: Continue reading

Posted in Diversity of representation, Equality, Film & TV industry data, Gender equality, Gender representation, High End TV data, Management, Skills & capacity, Wellbeing, Work-life balance | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Public Service Broadcasting – contestable funds under threat?

The dust has long settled on the Public Service Broadcasting Contestable Funds Consultation [pdf] from 2016 (the outgoing culture team were fairly keen on them but Nadine Dorries may not be), and the Times [£] has a worrying set of concerns being raised by former Play School presenter-turned-LibDem peer Floella Benjamin about the threat to the £60 million public service television and radio fund – money that goes towards the production of content that would not be commercially viable.

I’m mentioning this here mainly because – if it happens – it gives us a clear sign about the government’s general attitudes to arts funding in the event of a decision to cut general public spending. Continue reading

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Netflix global strategy on films

More fuel to the debate about how the SVoD boom will affect the cultural diversity of film and TV, and on that whole ‘cinema to sofa’ question will play out.

Here, their international film Boss David Kosse talks about how he believes that Netflix offers bigger budgets for streaming movies than those that the non-blockbusters with traditional theatrical releases would have got.

“More action, prosthetics and shooting days”

And this: Continue reading

Posted in Culture policy, Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, Film & TV industry policy, SVoD | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

IATSE update – strike averted – members consider a deal

IATSE have reached an eleventh-hour deal over the weekend to avoid a US film and TV strike. The fine details are yet to be published and Variety are reporting that townhall meetings will be held, along with first reactions.

Deadline reports here and here. Variety here, and Hollywood Reporter here:

The union’s bid to reform working practices has received widespread support, including from actors as the Daily Mail is reporting.

It’s hard to really know everything until we see the detail though.

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Visa-free short-term touring allowed in 20 EU countries

The government website is saying that…

“20 Member States have confirmed they offer visa and work permit free routes for UK musicians and performers. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Durations and requirements vary from Member State to Member State, and we strongly recommend that UK nationals check what requirements they need to fulfil with the EU Member State before travelling.”

You can read Bectu’s response here (and more about the touring campaign here), and, at the risk of sounding sceptical, I’m not sure that this is much more than a survey of how different EU countries interpret their Visa rules in relation to UK citizens doing short-term periods of work in their countries. Continue reading

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Flexible working – Arup explore the seven-day week

From Arup’s website:

“Arup, the employee-owned global engineering and design firm, has today announced it is adopting an innovative hybrid model – known as Work Unbound – that will give its 15,500 employees, known as members, greater flexibility in deciding how and where they work. The new model means that its 6,000 UK-based members will be able to work their hours flexibly over the course of Monday to Sunday, meaning staff could opt to work some of their contracted hours over a weekend rather than solely across the traditional Monday to Friday pattern.”

As the FT [£] says, Continue reading

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Protecting mental health in the workplace – TUC webinar

With the TUC’s Anna Kalsi alongside Peter Kelly, Senior Psychologist at the Health and Safety Executive, discussing what employers should be doing to prevent work-related stress and to protect the mental wellbeing of their employees.

Details here. You can register for this here.

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UK commissioned productions losing crew talent to streamers

We’ve been saying it will happen for a while, but the wider world is beginning to notice. This, from the FT[£];

“Seetha Kumar, chief executive of ScreenSkills, said the “pinch points” were particularly acute in mid-tier roles — for which several years of experience are required — such as production and location managers. Continue reading

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Energy bills to rise by 50% between 2020 and 2022

With the impacts of soaring global gas markets on the energy bills, and the price cap rising by 12 per cent on 1 October, The Resolution Foundation is briefing that energy bills are set to rise by 50% between 2020 and 2022.

There’s plenty in that briefing on what the government can do about this, but the takeaway for Bectu members considering their rates is that lower-income households are disproportionately affected by this as these price rises eat up a much higher proportion of their income.

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Bectu: “Do Nothing To Undermine The IATSE Action,”

Bectu has, once again, come out strongly in support of IATSE’s threatened strike action next week, as reported in Deadline earlier today.

Head of Bectu, Philippa Childs has urged members to “go further and show solidarity” posting photos with colleagues on social media with the hashtag #IASolidarity or #UnionStrong.

T-Shirts and stickers, and lots of other merch are on sale in the US with the ‘Give us a Rest at Night’ logo.Give it a rest - IATSE

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Vaccinated or a negative CoViD test – new guidance in Wales

From Monday 11th October new rules came into force in Wales requiring people attending large events and nightclubs (or similar premises) to prove they are either fully vaccinated or have had a negative COVID test. You can read guidance here and access promotional assets here.

Thanks to Siân Gale for the tip on this one.

There has been a significant relaxing of the rules in Northern Ireland in recent days. Audiences at indoor venues will also no longer have to stay seated during performances, and nightclubs are due to reopen on 31 October, with the end of indoor social distancing rules for hospitality (there’s a good roundup of NI changes here on the BBC website)

As far as the rest of the UK is concerned, the current rules are relatively relaxed, specifically…. Continue reading

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More on freelance pensions

Members who missed the seminar on freelancers and pensions a few weeks ago can view it here. Following this up, and looking at The Great British Retirement Survey annual report,

On the one hand, people are hearing to retire as never before, having had a taste of it during the lockdown. On the other, there’s a real crisis of trust in all kinds of institutions (including the State Pension).

There’s also the comparison here. We are rightly most anxious about people who have less retirement provision, and fewer other savings, and those who are still trying to decide if ISAs or pensions are best for them. Continue reading

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Yet another big streamer eyes European markets

This time, it’s Paramount +.

“In the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria (GSA), for example, Paramount Plus will launch on Sky platforms. Craig explained that according to the deal, Paramount Plus and Comcast/ViacomCBS streaming co-venture SkyShowtime will be mutually exclusive in a number of territories, with customers experiencing one or the other depending on their location.”

High on their list of priorities, though, is to get to grips with the EU’s AVMS directive (a regular theme on this site) – here’s the US perspective on this that I missed at the time. (In fairness it was published before this blog started). Continue reading

Posted in EU & Brexit, Film & TV industry policy, Public Service Broadcasting, Quotas, Regulation, SVoD | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

BBC Studios Appoints Tom Fussell as CEO

As reported in Variety.

“Fussell will oversee BBC Studio’s “ambitious” plans for global expansion, its focus on employee engagement and wellbeing as well as diversity, inclusion and sustainability.”

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What is happening to self-employment in the UK

The tl;dr answer is that it’s too early to tell.

As mentioned previously here, there’s a lot of job-switching going on, and there is a generally tight labour market in the UK (and globally, though the UK has the added spice of Brexit to contend with).

‘Economic inactivity’ (i.e. people who are neither working or known to be unable to work) is now higher than pre-pandemic levels, and self-employment is known to be 660,000 down. CIPD are saying that known wage growth is masking a sharp rise in temporary workers and also a fall in the number of self-employed.

Derek Cribb, speaking for IPSE saidContinue reading

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French cultural policy

France has always had an interesting, and different approach to cultural policy to the UK’s equivalent. In thinking about this last night, I remembered this 2013 document [pdf] from the Coalition Francaise and I thought I’d bookmark it here.

This [pdf] may also be worth looking at too, from 2016

(This is why the ‘categories’ and ‘tags’ on this site are so useful).

Posted in Copyright & Intellectual Property, Culture policy, Diversity of representation, Film & TV industry policy, Public Service Broadcasting, Quotas, Regulation, Tax incentives | Tagged , | Leave a comment

IATSE ramps up the pressure: a deal – or a strike on Monday!

IATSE has ramped up the pressure, publishing a Strike Clock counting down to midnight on Monday morning.

In a message circulating IATSE members, the line is….

“AMPTP has until Monday 18th at 12:01 am to make us a better offer. Leadership advised me to tell members to get your kits tidy this week. Be prepared to work on Monday but also be prepared to picket/walk off”.

IATSE’s demands are hardening, and members have been emboldened by the overwhelming strike vote. It’s going to be an interesting few days….

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Basic income for artists and art-workers – Irish trial

The Irish Times [£] is reporting on a three-year pilot scheme on ‘basic income’ for artists and arts-sector workers.

With an initial budget of €25 million it is targeted on people who were fell badly between the cracks during the CoViD lockdown (Bectu members say Hi!).

There’s very little detail at the moment, (the Irish Times seem to be running a tip as a story) but I’ll keep you posted. Continue reading

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Self employed workers using their own home as a workplace

This is an issue where I’d normally point members to Tax for Freelancers (the Bectu tax guide) but I do find that TaxAid often explains things very well – here’s their account of this issue.

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There’s a lot of job-switching going on

Following on from two posts here this morning about inflation/pay, and the tight labour market, here’s a third on the trinity of issues that are creating a fair wind for union-type demands at the moment.

Sarah O’Connor in the FT is writing[£] about ‘the big quit‘ (a link to a Forbes article there). Forbes are writing the sort of thing that unions normally would only dream of reading in a bosses bible.

Employers need to sharpen up their management practices and listen to workers’ calls for more flexible working, less presenteeism, and plan for a general humanisation of work! Continue reading

Posted in Economics, Employment, Low pay, Pay & inflation, Productivity, Wages and Pay-rates | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Got a pay claim coming up? Want advice on inflation, and stuff like that?

If you have a pay claim coming up and want advice on inflation, and stuff like that…. good luck!

Firstly, the official, current inflation figures have not been as flimsy a guide as they are at the moment for a very long time – so now may not be a time for too much number-crunching. This is because there is so much uncertainty around prices this winter. Currently, RPI is 4.8% in August – up from 3.8% in July – and CPI rose from 2.0% to 3.2% in the same period.

Inflation could be at significantly high levels (5%+!). The current Bank of England view is that CPI will pass 4% or even 4.5% in November/December before falling away slightly with RPI running a point or so higher, though there’s not a consensus on that at the moment, everyone seems very worried and the bets are piling in on interest rate rises [£].

Continue reading

Posted in Economics, Employment, EU & Brexit, Inflation, Pay & inflation, Productivity, Skills & capacity | Tagged | 1 Comment

Directors Guild of America approach to diversity

Janice Turner has forwarded me some interesting stuff from one of our union kin in the US, The Directors Guild of America (DGA).

Their mission statement includes a dual focus:

  1. Cultural diversity is reflected in the stories that Directors tell
  2. Diversity and inclusion ensuring that everyone has a fair chance of working in their industry regardless of their personal background.

Section 15 [pdf] of the DGA’s Basic Agreement with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) is well worth a look. Continue reading

Posted in Culture policy, Diversity of representation, Equality, Gender equality, Gender representation, Race equality, Wealth inequality | Tagged | Leave a comment

“The tightest labour market in modern times”

This Twitter thread (below) is really worth a careful read for everyone who wants to understand the current state of the labour market.

Firstly, the fears about mass redundancies at the end of furlough are just not materialising – if anything redundancies are below pre-pandemic levels.

In summary, there’s a strong recovery going on, but it is being hampered by employers not being able to hire the workers that they need because there is a ‘missing million’ from the workforce. Continue reading

Posted in Economics, Employment, Productivity | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

How often do Freelancers need to opt out of the pension scheme with a regular employer?

This is another of those posts that we would urge you to act upon only after having read the footnote (below).

We are periodically contacted by members who work multiple short contracts for the same engager (e.g. a national broadcaster) who are frustrated at being required to opt-out of the company’s auto-enrolment scheme when they start a new engagement. For long-term employees, opt-outs apply for three years.

So why can’t engagers apply the same principle to freelancers?

We asked Stewart Mott, our Pensions Officer, to check this and advise on it. He came back saying that, in his view, he would generally expect members to have to opt out each time they are engaged with a particular employer for a new assignment. Continue reading

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Women leaving the theatre sector after the pandemic?

An interesting-if-depressing report here (reported in The Guardian):

“The research, conducted by playwright Jennifer Tuckett, in partnership with organisations such as The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, Equity, Stage Directors UK and the December Group, found that more than 98% of the 387 women surveyed experienced challenges in the past 19 months, including a decrease in freelance work (74%), and increases in domestic tasks (38%) childcare (27%) and unemployment (32%).”

… and… Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Gender equality, Gender pay, Gender representation, Theatre and Live Events data | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment