Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Shop Talk

Back in April I wrote a post, 'Closing the Shop?', triggered by stories I had heard about the implementation of the agreement reached by producers' organisation (SPI) and the freelance film technicians' union (SIPTU) in early Autumn last year. This was after ten years of on-again off-again negotiations.

Since then, at the beginning of June, I wrote an as yet unpublished piece for Film Ireland in connection with some of the issues around which there is almost a code of silence in the industry. One of the things I cited was the new agreement. I wondered that it had not been published (I published the pay rates myself here). And I went on to surmise that Clause 3 of the agreement might not have been shown to the Competition Authority.

Now there is a briefing in circulation for producers on the implementation (or should that be the impossibility of implementing that aspect) of the agreement. If this was crystal clear to this layman then how can it possibly have escaped the notice of everyone involved in a process which took all of ten years to conclude?

The briefing goes as follows -
In August 2010, Screen Producers Ireland and SIPTU signed the Comprehensive Agreement for the Feature Film both TV & Cinema & Television Drama Industry in Ireland. This agreement governs the rates of pay and the terms and conditions of shooting crew employed in the production of feature films and TV drama in Ireland.

Since signing the agreement a fundamental issue has arisen with the implementation of Clause 3. This clause is titled “Recognition of parties to this Agreement” and part of that clause reads as follows: ‘For its part the Company agrees to recognise SIPTU as the sole negotiating body for all shooting crew workers covered by this agreement. It shall be a pre entry condition of employment for all shooting crew covered by this Agreement that they become and remain benefit members of SIPTU’.

In discussing the implementation of this clause, SIPTU were of the view that any crew member who was not a member of the union, could not be employed on productions being made by SPI members.

SPI now understands that it would not be constitutional for our industry to impose union membership on existing or future employees, particularly if those employees have worked in the industry for a long period of time. Therefore we cannot agree to the implementation of this clause as proposed by SIPTU. We have set out to the union how we intend to operate Clause 3 and it has also been referred to the Film Industry Arbitration Tribunal which is the dispute mechanism under the agreement. If it is not possible to reach agreement at the Film Industry Arbitration Tribunal, it will go through the normal dispute procedures under the LRC and the Labour Court and SPI will undertake that its members will comply fully with any recommendations issued.

In the interim period, it is important that producers operate Clause 3 in accordance with what we have outlined to SIPTU. That is;
1) Production companies will employ crew subject to them being suitably qualified;
2) Production companies will inform crew in writing of the agreement and particularly Clause 3 (this can be done when start forms are being issued);
3) Production companies will facilitate SIPTU in arranging on-set meetings with crew;
4) Production companies will provide unit and cast lists to the union per Clause 15 (telephone numbers, addresses and any other personal data should not be included as this is a breach of the Data Protection Act);
5) If requested, production companies will obtain consent from employees that their contact details can be passed to SIPTU and they will pass this information on;

To be clear, SPI understands it is a matter for crew alone whether they wish to join a union. The industry does not and cannot discriminate on the basis of membership or not of a trade union.

Under Clause 15 of the same agreement it is important that every production provides SIPTU with the pre-production information set out in the agreement and that this is done at least four weeks prior to the proposed shoot date.

SPI is committed to the 2010 Shooting Crew Agreement and hope that the issue surrounding Clause 3 can be agreed by the parties.

Put this sorry tale together with some of the other 'issues' I hear of - the employment of stand-bys, for instance - and you get a picture of mutually assured dysfunction in an industry already under tremendous competitive pressure from overseas.

The film industry 'Get A Grip!' campaign starts here.


Anonymous said...

Hi. Is the full text of this 'agreement' available anywhere to download? Thanks

irish film portal said...

I'm woking on getting it up here - given that industrial relations have become such an issue.

Anonymous said...

The way I interpret this is that as the agreement is between SPI and SIPTU, then it is more than reasonable to state that *those seeking to be covered by the agreement* should be members of SIPTU.

Theoretically, a crew could consist of some SIPTU members - who would be covered by the agreement, some members of other Unions - who would not be covered by the agreement, plus non-union personnel.

I wonder has this been misunderstood - I thought Closed Shops were illegal today.

My own objection to this agreement is around the sliding pay scales for different budgets - this must be a first - pay rate x for one production, but pay rate y for another - even though the work involved is presumably the same.

Anonymous said...

Is this it?

irish film portal said...

I believe so, but but see if you can verify with SPI/SIPTU.

Anonymous said...

it s true spi were told siptu would forget about clause 3 if the agreement be registered in the lrc so all crew union members or not would be protected