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Bectu has reached out across the Atlantic in solidarity with US freelancers preparing to strike in protest over long working hours.

As the union puts the long-hours culture on the agenda in its talks with Pact about renegotiating the TV Drama Agreement, its US counterpart IATSE [The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts] is calling on members to go on strike over the issue.

In an open letter to IATSE international president Matt Loeb, Bectu head Philippa Childs has pledged “unwavering support and solidarity with IATSE members”.

She writes: “The battle against long hours takes many forms, be it workers that are working unpaid prep and wrap hours or expected to be driving home after a 15 hour shift, only to be on the road again a few short hours later.

“Crew on both sides of the Atlantic work dangerously long hours and the problem is only getting worse.”

Childs said the pandemic has caused many freelancers to reflect on, and demand improvements to, their work-life balance.

A survey of Bectu members in March found that 40% had considered leaving the industry due to the impact of the pandemic and this month, more than 2,100 members signed an open letter to Pact demanding a renewed focus on tackling working hours and prioritise mental health and wellbeing.

Loeb and the presidents of 13 associated guilds have urged freelancers to back a nationwide strike against film and TV production companies, in a ballot due to take place between this weekend, to give them greater bargaining power for a fairer deal.

US organisations including the Writers Guild and Directors Guild, as well as Hollywood celebrities including Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Seth Rogan and Ben Stiller have lent their support to the IASTE. If the strike goes ahead, it will be the first strike authorised by the union in its 100-year history.

“We each have witnessed first-hand the physical and emotional suffering our members and their loved ones endure as a result of punishing and unrealistic schedules, and lack of rest or meal breaks,” union leaders said in a statement.

Some IATSE members have cancelled their streaming subscriptions in protest over rules drawn up in the early days of on-demand programming that stipulate that streamers with fewer than 20 million subscribers – such as Apple TV+ - can pay lower wage rates than the likes of Netflix and Amazon, and most linear TV productions.

IATSE represents more than 150,000 technical, creative and craft freelancers. 

Read Bectu’s letter in full here 


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