I’ve already posted a couple of times about the plan to pilot a sectoral Basic Income for arts workers in Ireland.
Today I attended a TUC seminar on this with Karan O Loughlin from SIPTU (the Irish union that covers our sectors) and Mike Brewer from Resolution Foundation who is an expert on Social Security.
Mike talked about his recent academic paper – “Did the UK policy response to Covid- 19 protect household incomes.” [pdf] – which assesses the potential distributional impact of introducing a Universal Basic Income (UBI) instead of the Covid emergency measures.
I don’t have too much to add to what we know about the Irish experiment today, but there were a few useful nuggets of information that are worth recording.
Firstly, SIPTU made the case very well back in 2019 when they showed that people in the arts sector who entered the realms of the unemployed than most people, and that they don’t need as much coercion to make them get a job – so pressure from the social security agencies on workers to take any job were more likely to harm their long-term career prospects than to help them.
Treating people who are arts freelancers who are between jobs as part of the general pool of the unemployed doesn’t make as much sense as governments many think it does.
A few other tangential learnings: in Ireland, the process of managing individual taxes in a more digital way (like the UK’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ initiative) has resulted in people losing the ability to use job mobility as an argument for being taxed as a freelancer – something we may see more of in the near future here in the UK. Continue reading
Unless someone tells me otherwise, it seems that the biggest issue for many freelancers arising from the cost-of-living crisis is the question of rising fuel costs – and this is likely to hit workers in film and TV particularly hard because of the fact that they need to do a daily commute to far-flung locations, often for months on end.
Anyone who has been following all of the posts on here about inflation (or more to the point, all of the non-trivial headlines from most news outlets in recent months) will be aware of the tough economic climate out there, and the impact that it is having on the cost of living and the ability of wages to keep pace.
Yesterday’s headlines were all about forecasts being revised with pessimism. The UK’s economic growth and inflation forecasts were particularly gloomy – inflation is expected to reach (!) double figures and the good news [sic] is that it will fall to only 4.7% by the end of 2023. Growth is expected to go into negative figures in Q4 of this yer.
There’s also the little matter of fuel costs – topping £100 to fill up an average family car for the first time.
As the cost of living soars at rates not seen for more than thirty years, the Living Wage Foundation has announced plans to bring its annual announcement forward from November to late September.
The previous figure was announced in mid-November 2021, fixing the figures at £9.90 in the UK with the London Living Wage (that considers the expense of living in the capital) at £11.05. Even at that point, forecasters (who had spent all of 2021 pushing an over-optimistic outlook) failed to foresee the severity of Spring 2022’s inflation rises (partly due to the war in Ukraine).
A list of recent posts on inflation can be seen here.
An explanation of what ‘the real living wage’ is can be seen here.
We are looking at doing some comparisons between different industries on the physical stress that applies to particular types of work (and ultimately, perhaps, with the industries covered by Bectu in comparison with other countries).
One resource Karl Raw from the HSE has pointed me towards is the HSE’s shared research programme. Annoyingly, reports are archived by the report number rather than the subject matter. The insight research is worth a look though.
Another twist in the tale of TV and Radio Presenters in dispute with HMRC about whether they are self-employed or not.
The short version – according to this report on the Contractor Weekly website – is that Paul Hawksbee – a radio presenter has lost his case and the Kaye Adams case is back in play as well – so the plot is thickening generally here.
At issue is the question of how far the presenter is business in their own right. See also a few of the posts on here about Adrian Chiles. As one of the lawyers is quoted on CW saying…
“Information on whether the contractor had its own independent client base, or whether it subcontracts elements of its service to other people at its own discretion can help demonstrate how the contractor is truly operating as a truly self-employed person and not a disguised employee.”
On the Kaye Adams case, HMRC succeeded in their appeal.
The Court decided that the Upper Tribunal was wrong to have determined the employment status of Kaye Adams under a hypothetical contract with the BBC by focusing on the status she had during her professional career rather than the terms and circumstances of the particular engagements with the BBC.
In addition, the Upper Tribunal was wrong to have taken into account matters which were not or may not have been known to both contracting parties.
The decision has been remitted to the Upper Tribunal to apply the correct test.
(Thanks to Paula Lamont for the tip)
As mentioned here previously, the Irish government is toying with the idea of offering a Universal Basic Income for artists and arts sector workers [£] to help even out the bumpy income that comes with freelancing.
More details are emerging now. It seems that they will do a trial whereby they ask people to show that they meet the criteria, and then people will be randomly selected to receive the support. Those who don’t get it will be asked to form part of a control group.
9,000 have applied and those selected will receive €325 a week. The selection process will pick 2,000 applicants at random and award them the support
Arts Minister Catherine Martin said:
“The new measure makes a statement about our values as a nation – that the voices of artists have been heard and that the arts matter. This is a unique opportunity to research the impact a basic income could have on the arts and to provide the evidence base for permanent support.”
A leaked talking-points memo from Apple shows how the use of FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) reminds us that employers rarely present themselves being as anti-union in principle.
Even by the standards of the past 18 months where all forecasts have been shown to be over-optimistic, the leap in CPI inflation between March and April from 7% up to 9% is a startling one. Here’s the ONS summary page.
As every news broadcaster is reminding us, it’s the highest rate for 40 years (March 1982, it was at 9.1% on remodeled figures because CPI wasn’t used as a measure in the 1980s).
RPI is at a staggering 11.1% and CPIH is at 7.8%. If you’re confused by the different ways of measuring inflation (you should be!) there’s a useful outline here [PDF].
You can find out more about how this affects your housing costs here (including a personal calculator).
The DCMS has published its Broadcasting White Paper promising “a new golden age of programming” with changes to regulations on SVoDs, sports rights, and the privatisation of Channel 4. One change is that C4 will be able to start producing its own content – to become a production company as well as a distributor of independent content.
There’s a useful round up here from Advanced Television and there will, no doubt, be more on this from the union to follow.
Reading my copy of PIRC’s quarterly Work newsletter, I see that there’s no mention of the budget / timetable for the proposed Single Enforcement Body (SEB) that we are hoping to see from the UK government.
There is an ongoing consultation on the UK’s labour market enforcement strategy though. Overseen by Margaret Beels, who was appointed in November 2021, the SEB will set the strategic direction for the 3 existing labour market enforcement bodies:
- the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate
- the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
- HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Team
PIRC’s own review of employment-related violations among the FTSE 350 reveals only 8 PLCs have been caught by HMRC for underpayment of wages between 2016-2019. Continue reading
Bectu has launched the Live to Work campaign aimed at improving terms and conditions in the UK TV drama industry. You can visit the campaign page here and join the network (open to members and non-members), download images to use on social media and order campaigning materials.
Bectu National Secretary, Spencer MacDonald says: Continue reading
Posted in Bectu Agreements, Film & TV industry policy, Freelance working, High End TV data, Long hours, Safe working practices, Safe working standards, TV Drama Agreement, Wellbeing, Work-life balance
Tagged BECTU Pact TV Drama Agreement, Live to Work
Here are some use useful links that include the latest guidance.
HSE (England, Scotland and Wales)
Cast and crew health and wellbeing
There’s a lot more investigating to take place, not least into the question of how a live round ended up in a prop gun. But here’s CCN’s account of the report released by New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health & Safety Bureau.
It would be a mistake to comment on this before all of the full facts are known but this issue will be being watched closely by the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Bectu will be raising it as part of the union’s regular engagement with health and safety structures.
There are currently discussions about reviewing parts of the UK’s guidance on use of armoury on set in the wider context of prop weapons.
Two stories passing each other in this week’s newspapers. Firstly, a good fact-packed briefing from The Times [£] on how demand for studio space is multiplying at the moment, to meet the demands of SVoD productions:
“UK production spend is expected to rise sharply, to more than £11 billion a year by 2026, up from £5.6 billion last year.”
“…the property agency Knight Frank estimates that the UK will need an extra 6 million sq ft of studio space over the next five years if the sector is to keep pace with growing demand…”
Knight Frank may want to ask themselves where the skills capacity to meet that demand is going to be found though? On top of all of the other developments that you can look at on this blog’s UK Studio Watch updates, there’s also this:
“Last year Netflix struck a deal with Segro, the FTSE 100 warehouse landlord, to occupy around 230,000 sq ft of production space in Enfield.”
However, moving in the other direction, there’s the widely reported drop in Netflix subscriptions. As the BBC reported, $50bn has been wiped off Netflix’s value because…. Continue reading
Here’s something written by Alan Lockey for Demos – “Free Radicals – Britain’s self-employed millions urgently need a new deal…” [pdf], and an IPSE’s 2017 ‘tax manifesto’ paper on “A Fairer, More Efficient Tax System” [pdf]
(h/t Martin McIvor)
My colleague Emily Collin has been working with the POP agency platform to support Assistant Directors and productions understand the new FAA-Pact Agreement and best practice when working with Background Artists/Supporting Artists/Doubles/Stand-Ins.
There’s a video here, along with a one-page best practice guide for ADs has also been produced and can be downloader here [pdf].
For freelancers working either in film and TV, or in Live Events, there is often no option to use public transport to get to work. For a typical filming day, Bectu members tell us that they tend to arrive at their place of work well before 8am in preparation for a day that formally starts at 8am.
They will often be at that workplace for 12+ hours
The journey below – a typical one based on a Bectu member spoken to recently – is from Tottenham to Pinewood arriving at 7.45am. To do this journey by public transport would involve being at a bus-stop well before 5am and spending more 2 hours and 30 minutes on a journey consisting of a trip on the tube, an overground rail journey and two buses at either end. Both ways. And Google maps shows the first viable public transport option for the return journey starting after 8pm involves starting the journey at 5:45am the following morning.
Given the length of the working day, it would be fair to say that public transport isn’t really an option here, even with the best will in the world.
Even the car journey is well over an hour each way though. If this journey were tax-deductible (and a commute generally isn’t, unless the worker is driving a Production Vehicle transporting kit to-and-from – in which case it can also be paid time!) HMRC would allow the driver to claim 45p per mile (so £20 – £30 a day in this case). To calculate the real car running costs, we can look at this AA website. Continue reading
Posted in Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, Film & TV industry policy, Freelance working, High End TV data, Long hours, Safe working practices, UK studios, Work-life balance
Tagged Commuting, Travel expenses, Travel time
Just a quick bookmark for an excellent bit of campaigns literature from Bectu’s sister union Equity – Professionally Made, Professionally Paid – an important part of the steps unions are taking to promote a professional attitude to the arts against the backdrop of exploitative attitudes that often prevail – especially in the arts sector.
What should happen when an HSE inspector visits your workplace?
To answer this question, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are hosting an event for Trade Union Health and Safety Representatives, providing an overview of the regulation, inspection, and enforcement of workplace health and safety. It is specifically aimed at a Scottish audience but Bectu reps everywhere are welcome to join.
HSE and Local Authority regulators, along with union safety representatives, will explain how regulation works in practice and how inspectors engage with representatives to support their vital contribution to protecting the health, safety and welfare of workers.
Please note the Microsoft Teams link below for this event on Thursday 21st April from 4pm to 6pm: there is no pre-registration for this event for participants/attendees, so other than the designated HSE, Environmental Health and trade union main speakers, participants can just join on the day at 3.50pm,
JOIN EVENT – When a Health and Safety Inspector Calls
THURSDAY 21st April 4pm to 6pm.
- Health and Safety Executive
- Environmental Health
- Scottish Hazards
- TUC Education in Scotland
There will be several HSE, and Environmental Health staff present at the event and H&S union reps and trade unionists can ask questions throughout the event, by either using the chat function or by sending queries before the event.
We have contacted HSE for confirmation that PPE should always be provided by engagers and the fact that a worker is not a direct employee is no defence. For full details of this guidance, see here.
Doug McGill has forwarded this to me. From the Preface:
“The original Code of Conduct for Get-ins, Fit-ups and Get-outs was created as a result of a serious accident during the unloading of stage flooring on the back of a wagon for a theatrical production. The accident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and subsequently discovered a number of safety concerns relating to poor working practices, competence of employees and a tradition of excessive working hours within the theatre industry. The HSE advised the whole industry that a culture change was required for get-ins, fit-ups and get-outs with the change being led by the industry rather than the regulator to
prevent further accidents from occurring.
Following Union and Employer consultation the new code was jointly agreed by UK Theatre (UKT) & BECTU becoming part of the union agreement. It represents a benchmark of best practice within technical theatre to protect the safety and well-being of employees for both the resident and production management. It sets minimum standards to ensure safety during production activities which should be adopted wherever reasonably practicable.”
The World Health Organisation has published a global standard for safe listening venues and events.
It’s a guide to governments, public health agencies, those involved in the creation, distribution, and amplification of music, the private sector, civil society, and everywhere else.
It provides standards on how they exercise the duty of care that they have in understanding the sound levels to which audiences and consumers are being exposed and creating environments that promote safe listening.
Aside from the obvious and valuable contribution to audience safety (and the even larger contribution to the safety of people who work in venues all of the time), it’s an interesting read – and not only for sound nerds. Continue reading
If you are self-employed, and you don’t have any of the following…
- a UK passport,
- pay slip,
- tax credit
- Northern Ireland driving licence
… you may find yourself trying to file your next tax return on paper. I’m mentioning this not because I have any suggestions on how to get around this problem (as far as I can see, there aren’t any) but because it’s probably worth knowing about it as far in advance as possible.
More on this here.
The TUC and Working Families are hosting a launch for a book called The Flexibility Paradox by Dr Heejung Chung on Wednesday 20 April at 1400.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible working has become the norm for many workers. But we know there is still much work to do to get fair flexibility for everyone.
In her new book, Dr Chung uses data from around the world to offer an original examination of the gendered impacts of flexible working. Bectu officials and reps are invited to attend the launch to discuss Dr Chung’s research and what her findings mean for organisations campaigning on flexible working and those who want to strengthen flexible working rights. Continue reading
Freelancers Make Theatre Work is an organisation that came into being in 2020. They did their first freelance survey in June of that year called The Big Freelancer Survey.
At the time, 9000 freelancers signed up to their platform, and it was driven substantially by CoViD issues. That survey looked at how CoViD had affected people (SEISS, Furlough, etc). It also aimed to check in on well-being – qualitative and quantitative data.
8,000 freelancers filled out the survey and it led to a report called ‘Routes to Recovery’ which TMFW believes influenced the decision for the £1.75bn CRF fund.
All of this led to a second report called ‘The Big Freelancer Report‘ in January 2021 which revealed common themes, such as… Continue reading
Imagine you wanted to work out what an inflation-rate increase between two dates is? Here’s an outline that I’ve drafted with extensive help from Nick Kardahji in the Prospect research team.
Say you are preparing a pay claim for some workers who haven’t had a pay rise since October 2017. Currently, the most recent figures available are for February 2022. Say, you want to know what a level-with-inflation increase would be for someone who hasn’t had a pay rise since January 2017. You will need to use the “inflation indices” (see below for an explanation of what these are).
Stage one: Get the data.
Behind the easy-to-read web pages that tell you the current rates of inflation, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website also publishes all of this data in spreadsheets that can be downloaded from their website. For this purpose, you are going to need CPI and RPI data. These can be found by downloading the spreadsheet from this page (look for the green button – “Current edition of this dataset”).
You can open this in MS Excel or other compatible spreadsheet programs. Look for the tabs – the CPI figures are in the “Table 20A, 20B, 20C” tab, and the RPI figures are in “Table 36”.
Stage two: Do the (easy) sums
Let’s start with RPI.
You will see that, in January 2017, RPI had an index of 265.5 while the most recent index (Feb 2022) is 320.2
- 265.5 ÷ 100 = 2.655
- 320.2 ÷ 2.655 = 120.60
- So the percentage increase is 20.6%
Unions tend to argue for RPI, and employers tend to prefer the lower CPI rate, so it may help you to know what they are going to offer. Continue reading
There’s a useful summary of this issue on the IOSH magazine website here.
It’s got a lot of the kind of thing you’d expect (including a quote from our own Spencer MacDonald).
“Research says that when an employee works more than 12 hours, the risk of an incident doubles; the risk trebles after 16 hours (HSE, 1999) “
It also includes something from Karl Simmons of FYLD who talks about the problem with using overtime as the main regulator of long working hours – he proposes ideas like asking people to expressly call their manager to discuss a lengthened working day, but
“…employees may have competing priorities – they may be chasing the overtime, it might be coming up to Christmas, or they simply forget to call.”
Discussing this article yesterday with members of Bectu’s Locations branch, one of them sent me this article on the dangers of sleep deprivation – it includes a list of major accidents that have been caused by tiredness.
Posted in Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, High End TV data, Long hours, Safe working practices, Safe working standards, Wellbeing, Work-life balance, Workplaces
Tagged Fatigue, Long hours working, Sleep deprivation, Tiredness
Further to the previous post on the cost of living, Bectu reps may wish to circulate this Office for National Statistics (ONS) page on how to calculate your personal cost-of-living changes.
How can we understand the current cost of living crisis in perspective when talking to Bectu members about their wages?
One way would be to look at it over a few years. In the past few days, coincidentally, I’ve had two different requests for advice from people who last increased their rates in Autumn 2019. Because a lot of things stagnated over the course of the pandemic, it’s an interesting scenario to look at.
So imagine that you were paid £1000 to do a job in October 2019, and you were offered the chance to do it again today (29 months later). Using this inflation calculator, you would need to charge
- £1,102 if you wanted your pay to keep pace with RPI inflation. The cost of goods and services as measured by RPI has grown by 10.2% over that period. Someone who was giving themselves an annual pay increase would have needed to increase their wages by an average of 4.3% each year during that period.
- £1,067 – a 6.7% increase over those 29 months – if you were doing the same calculation using CPI. Someone who was giving themselves an annual pay increase during that period to keep pace with CPI inflation would have needed to increase their wages by an average of 2.73% over that period.
Inflation is also now being forecast to be here for a while – see the current Treasury forecasts document here [pdf]. However, inflation rates aren’t the only factors in play when thinking about the cost of living. Continue reading
Firstly, with inflation up again at 6.2% from 5.5%, the growth forecasts are fairly conservative at the moment and “we don’t really know how the situation in Ukraine will affect all of this” runs like a subtext to all of today’s announcements, fears about how the cost of borrowing will continue to rise with record interest payments are also a big factor here and form the backdrop to the 2022 Spring Statement.
Everything else we can hear in the statement should be heard against the deafening noises-off from the cost of living crisis though.
So the chancellor is in a very unenviable situation, and he’s responded with a relatively short Spring Statement, the highlights of which are… Continue reading
The EntitledTo website is worth bookmarking.
It aims to offer reliable estimates of benefit entitlements for individuals based on the detailed knowledge that they claim to have of the UK’s social security system.
The site has some useful benefits calculators that allow visitors to determine whether they are getting the right amount of money in their benefit claims and if they’re eligible for any other benefits.
The site is also useful for people who need to get their head around the way that any Government welfare reforms take effect, as and when they do.
There’s a useful roundup in the i-Paper showing the scale of the studio expansion and growing physical production capacity that the UK has, in contrast to the roster of available skills which will leave an estimated “40,000 workers needed to crew productions by 2025”
“Low-budget independent films, in the £3m to £6m range, are struggling the most. One producer reported a search through 72 first-assistant directors before finding one available candidate, who then quoted a wage 40 per cent above what was assigned in the budget.”
There’s also a useful map in there showing where all of the work is being done.
Not a detailed post but a useful snapshot.