CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/APA AND BECTU DISPUTE - APA takes first step to finalising crew agreement

APA recommendations for UK crews tackle flexibility and costs.

ths of intense, frustrating and ultimately futile negotiations, the industry trade body for production company personnel, the Advertising Producers Association, has drawn up new crew arrangements, having failed to reach an agreement with the crew's union, the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph & Theatre Union.

The two sides have been attempting to update the old contract, which expired in July, since March, although lengthy and numerous disputes have left members frustrated by a lack of solutions.

So the APA has drawn up its own recommendations. These are designed to make UK production cheaper and more flexible, therefore stemming the flow of contracts overseas, and bringing the UK more in line with working practices in the rest of Europe.

There's no doubt that it's more competitive than the old contract, which saw clients being penalised at every turn. And with the IPA estimating that each year another 5 per cent of UK-based commercials defect overseas, preventative action needed to be taken.

Although the new guidelines don't form a binding agreement, most in the industry are expected to stick to the draft so they can avoid time-consuming negotiations with individual crew members. Tim Marshall, the managing director of Another Film Company, says: "It would be nice to have a firm agreement. We haven't got time to sit down and negotiate terms with every single crew member."

And while it might be true that the APA's revised agreement does reduce the pay of freelances working on commercials, the argument is that long term they will benefit from more projects, once those that would have defected abroad have been tempted to shoot in the UK.

Although some production companies accuse UK crews of having been greedy and therefore welcome the new recommendations, many don't think the changes will prevent shoots from shifting overseas. Advertisers and their agencies often prefer foreign locations, such as Prague, Budapest or South Africa because of their competitive exchange rates and more reliable weather.

BECTU, which declined to contribute to this piece, appears to have rejected the idea that the crew costs are the reason so much work has gone abroad, and so is unwilling to endorse the new proposals. But crucially this hasn't stopped crews from accepting them, albeit informally.

There is a general feeling of having been let down by BECTU over the dispute, a sentiment which could weaken its membership in the future.

Some say the body's inflexibility has proven to be naive and some still hope that BECTU will come back to the negotiating table, but the union's representatives could not be reached to comment on this possibility.

So do the APA's new crew guidelines go far enough? Steve Davies, the association's chief executive, says: "We canvassed our members' opinion, and we came up with terms we thought were modern and fair. We could have gone for Draconian terms, but the objective was to treat crew fairly."

But although the APA has done its best to set a framework that can be universally recognised and adhered to, some still say they're not sure what's actually been agreed.

"Everyone's still all over the place," one production executive complains.

The APA recommends a number of significant changes (see table), which some hail as a great start, but others criticise for going too far. The differing agendas of all the people involved goes a long way to explain these varying opinions, as well as explain why BECTU and the APA couldn't agree.

It's too early to say whether the new guidelines will work. But most agree they are a big step in the right direction, and end a tiresome stalemate that has done neither side any good. They represent the first positive move towards being more competitive within a tough environment. But with no official, union-endorsed, crew contract now in existence, the situation is not resolved.

MAIN CHANGES BETWEEN OLD APA/BECTU AGREEMENT AND NEW RECOMMENDATIONS

OLD AGREEMENT

Guaranteed Eight-hour day plus one hour for lunch

working day

Night shoots Single night engagements: one rest day

in addition to time worked;

Multiple night engagements: paid for

two rest days in addition to hours worked

Saturdays Crew are paid at time and a half

Start times Work must commence between 7am and 10am

Delayed meal When a meal break is delayed the crew

breaks member is entitled to a penalty payment

of one-and-a-half hours

Curtailed and Entitled to be paid for the period of

missed breaks break missed at overtime rates

Travel on Paid for time travelled subject to a

non-working days minimum of eight hours

Travel payments At overtime payments in certain circumstances

Mileage payments Mileage payable to all locations

to locations

Annual pay Automatic entitlement to annual cost

increases of living increase in crew rates

NEW RECOMMENDED TERMS

Guaranteed Ten-hour day plus one hour

working day for lunch on shoot days

(eight-hour day on non-shoot days)

Night shoots No rest day payments

Saturdays Saturdays are a normal working day

Start times Work must commence between 7am and 11am

Delayed meal Fixed penalty of £10

breaks

Curtailed and Entitled to be paid for any part of a

missed breaks break they have to work at their

ordinary hourly rate

Travel on Paid for time travelled with a

non-working days minimum of five hours

Travel payments Standard hourly rate only with the first

hour in each direction non-chargeable

Mileage payments Mileage only payable to locations if

to locations they are more than 20 miles from W1V

Annual pay No automatic entitlement to

increases increased rates

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