Excessive working hours plague film and TV industry worldwide, not just U.S.


Excessive working hours plague film and TV industry worldwide, not just U.S.

Entertainment unions mobilizing to support IATSE and set humane hours globally

As members of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), an affiliate of UNI Global Union, vote overwhelmingly in favour of strike action against marathon workdays in the U.S. film and TV industry, a new study of unions representing over 150,000 behind-the-scenes workers around the world has revealed that inhumane working hours are a global problem.

UNI’s Media and Entertainment sector (UNI MEI) has conducted a survey of 28 affiliate unions from 20 countries regarding working time, with initial results showing that crew from all surveyed countries work in excess of a 50-hour week and that 60-hour weeks are common. The impact of such long hours can be devastating for physical health, mental wellbeing and family life.

Given the prevalence of this issue globally and the influence the U.S. employers have internationally, unions around the world are seeing the IATSE effort to win a fair contract and humane hours linked closely to their own.

Speaking on news of the union’s historic vote, which saw 98 per cent of members in the United States grant approval for a nationwide strike, IATSE International President, Matthew Loeb, said:

“The members have spoken loud and clear. This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry. Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage.”

UNI MEI will soon be publishing full details from the survey, which gathered data on collective agreements, working hours and terms and conditions, in preparation for a global campaign to improve working hours.

Spencer MacDonald, National Secretary of BECTU, U.K., and Chair of UNI MEI’s Global Film & TV Production Working Group said: “Crews in the USA, in the UK and around the world have worked tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring health and safety standards are raised. The pressure on workers is simply not sustainable. We need a global solution to a global problem: safe working time conditions on all productions!

Kelly Wood, Director of Entertainment, Crew and Sport of MEAA, Australia and UNI MEI Vice President said: “We stand with IATSE in this fight for dignified working conditions and join in their demands for a fair deal that brings real change on working time. Too many behind-the-scenes workers around the world are deprived of sufficient breaks, rest and weekends. We will engage in a global campaign against the widespread practice of excessive working hours.” 

UNI Global Union General Secretary, Christy Hoffman, said:

“Recurrent overtime and insufficient rest during and between workdays is not the exception but the rule, and production crew have said enough is enough. The huge support expressed by workers in favour of a strike authorization makes it very clear to multinational employers that it’s time for change.”

Noting that the same issues and employers permeate the industry worldwide, UNI MEI will soon convene a global gathering of media and entertainment unions to support IATSE members as well as to build an international approach to making the film and television industry sustainable and humane for crew members.

We stand together.