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UK Screen slams BECTU's vfx survey

UK Screen slams BECTU's vfx survey
News
Jake Bickerton
06 February 2014

The facilities trade body UK Screen Association, which represents vfx companies, has issued a formal letter to BECTU following the publication of BECTU's Vfx Working Time Charter.

UK Screen has no problem with the charter itself (which lays out eight requests to vfx companies to improve the working conditions of staff), however the trade association takes major issue with a survey BECTU conducted, the results of which were published as part of the Vfx Working Time Charter.

Specifically, UK Screen says the survey data has been misrepresented through the rewording of survey questions in the reported output. Furthermore, UK Screen is concerned about the general validity of the survey as it claims BECTU can't guarantee all the respondents even work in UK vfx houses.

So, Sarah Mackey, UK Screen's CEO has issued a formal letter to BECTU's General Secretary Gerry Morrissey, which includes the following concerns:

Page one of this Charter quotes a number of statistics from your 2013 vfx survey. My concerns are as follows:

1. Your survey contains no identifier questions and was promoted and distributed via a global social media site. As a result you can have no firm evidence as the source of your respondents, whether they are of UK or ex-UK origin, and whether they work in film, television, commercials, corporate or games vfx. Despite this you present the data as if it relates to the UK sector and, more specifically, to film vfx houses.

2. In presenting your outputs the three original questions have been reworded, hence:

‘Do you know vfx artists who have left the industry due to insecurity and/or workloads’ – is reported as ‘77% of people know someone who has recently left the industry because they couldn’t keep up with the workloads, overtime and poor working conditions’.

‘Have you ever been pressured by managers or supervisors to work longer hours for free?’ – is reported as ‘81% of people have felt pressured or bullied into working overtime for free on films’

‘How difficult do you think it is for people with children or caring responsibilities to make a successful career in vfx?’ – is transposed into ‘83% of people said it was difficult or very difficult to raise a family while working in vfx’. ‘

Mackey has requested the union withdraw and correct the vfx Working Time Charter. “Although I understand BECTU needs to grow its membership it should not do so at the expense of fairness and accuracy. This kind of messaging can be very damaging the UK film industry and the vfx sector,” she says.

All comments
VfxLondon
VfxLondon  | February 6, 2014
Dear Ms. Mackey. It is clear to me you have never worked in vfx and have no real world knowledge of vfx conditions. I have worked in the industry for over 7 years in multiple countries, including currently working in London at multiple major vfx houses. You seem to have concerns of BECTU's questions. Let me be of service as an employee currently working in the vfx industry in London.

1.) You know who promoted and distributed the survey? VFX worked to each other, to get the ball rolling on the unpaid overtime and very long hours. If long hours weren't a problem, and workers weren't expected to work them, why have them automatically opted out of the EU working time guidelines? Sure we could opt in, but being employed on short contracts makes people fell pressure to not opt-in so they will be rehired for the next project. Imagine never being able to plan more than a few months in advance because you aren't sure you're going to have a job.

2.)

a| I think you could easily find 77% of people who know someone who has left the industry because of working conditions. One's a painter, another is a nurse, one is back in school, one left to build rockets. That's just from me. The industry is very small, most people know each other or have at least one friend in common. I think if you'd ask us we could answer this for you.

b| I believe this number is probably much higher than 81% of people who have felt pressured to stay late. I have personally been asked to stay late multiple times and different major London vfx houses. Long hours are epidemic, I don't know one artist or production person who would disagree and no, we don't get paid for long hours.

c| I think a lot of people who have children in vfx don't see their children that much. There are some companies in London who give flex hours for parents, but they are very few. I think it is difficult to raise a family, and often wonder if I'd be able to and stay in this career. I don't think I would be able to and if I'm lucky enough to find someone and they did the same job, I don't know who would be home with the kids. One of us would have to change jobs.

In conclusion, Ms. Mackey I think you need to understand that while BECTU may need more members, the working conditions in vfx will surely help them find them. It may be damaging, but it is the truth and it hurting the health and families of the workers who delivers such amazing 3D to film audiences worldwide. Career choice should not have to be a sacrifice to ones standard of living, no matter how much you enjoy your job.





















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