A Bectu survey revealing a high volume of freelancers out of work and questioning their future in the industry in the wake of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes in the US should “raise alarm bells”, the union’s chief Philippa Childs has warned.
Speaking to almost 4,000 freelancers in film and TV, Bectu found that three-quarters are currently out of work, 80% reported that the US strikes have had a direct impact on their employment and 90% are worried about their financial security.
Against this backdrop, 60% said these pressure points were affecting their mental health and 35% are struggling to play bills and their rent or mortgage.
Alarmingly, almost a quarter said they did not see themselves working in film and TV in the next five years.
Childs said the impact of actors and writers’ strikes on all crew should not be underestimated, particularly following the devastating disruption of the pandemic.
“For too long, we have seen a pattern of engaging crew where they are picked up and dropped again with little notice, protection or reassurances about future employment,” she said. “They are often the first to suffer and the hardest hit when production is impacted.
““This is a fight with many of the same employers who frequently undervalue crew in the UK, and therefore our solidarity with US actors and writers is important for raising standards domestically and globally. However, there is no getting around the very real and devastating impact on UK workers.
“The government is vocal about the huge cultural and economic value of the creative industries; it must put its money where its mouth is and look after those who work in the sector. Likewise, urgent industry collaboration and commitment from employers to support the freelance workforce is critical if we want to UK to remain a cultural hub.”
Bectu shared some typical comments from freelancers who completed the survey,
“I lost my job while pregnant and I don’t qualify for maternity pay either. The loss of my job has put great stress and anxiety on my first pregnancy. I am so disheartened by the industry and how disposable we are to productions. We have not heard anything from the production since our last day of work in July.”
“I don’t see myself continuing to work in this industry. Situations like this cause so much stress financially on top of the stress the industry can already have while you’re working. It’s so volatile and you do need tough skin and a plan. I know a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck. The industry was flooded with more work and more workers after lockdown and now there’s no work.”
“After being one of the forgotten many who fell through the cracks during the pandemic and received absolutely no financial support from the government, to now be in an even worse financial position is mind blowing and infuriating. I’ve spent so long surviving instead of thriving, and I’m tired.”