Bectu has warned indies not to ‘penalise’ any workers hit by the suspension of a production due to Covid as it restates safe working practices in the pandemic.
The union’s national secretary Spencer McDonald has outlined that If a production is halted, producers should pay staff a full day-rate if possible during the hiatus to compensate for work lost. Where this is not possible, workers should receive 50% of the day rate or the London Living Wage, whichever is higher.
The union spoke out after Broadcast exposed a ‘Covid rider’ attached to a contract that stated contracts can be ‘terminated with immediate effect’ if the pandemic halts production – with staff offered a maximum of £700 over two weeks if they are personally hit by the virus. After two weeks, their contract would be terminated as they would be classed as ‘absent due to sickness’.
Bectu and Pact have also reiterated their three-pronged advice for operating a safe set at this moment in time:
1. Supervision: The COVID supervisor plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of a production and itshould be carried out by someoneproperly trained, and with sufficient authority.
2. Compliance: Management personnel at all levels (including HoDs and senior departmental crew) and all individuals need to take personal responsibility forenforcing compliance with the rules. Individuals should set a personal example and escalate any cases of persistent non-compliance.
3. Testing and response: Everybody involved in the production should have an appropriatelystringent level of testing. Productions should respond promptly, safely, and fairly whenever a positive test is reported, or where someone has to self-isolate pending a test. Productions should have stringent procedures covering all eventualities and there should be no uncontractual disincentives to people who report symptoms or have a positive test result.
In an open letter to Bectu and Pact, the European trade body International Federation of Cinematographers, outlined its concerns about crew missing out on pay.
“The UK production sector should improve working conditions and not use Covid as an excuse,” it stated. The federation urged Bectu and Pact to “engage immediately so that a clear path forward can be found and workers aren’t made to suffer unnecessarily”.
Pact has said the issue needs to be looked at on a “case by case basis”.
Meanwhile, chancellor Rishi Sunak has revealed that 40 productions have so far submitted claims to the government’s £500m Film and TV Production Restart Scheme, which can cover crew costs on Covid-hit productions.
These include Dave’s factual series Expedition with Steve Backshall, made by natural history indie True to Nature, and Avalon’s Sky/FX comedy Breeders.