Close to 200 animation workers at Vancouver's Titmouse studio have voted by a margin 96.9 per cent to ratify a first-ever collectively bargained contract.
The deal comes one year after the workers became the first in B.C.'s animation industry to unionize, organizing under Animation Guild, Local 938 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), around concerns over unpaid overtime, lack of benefits and lack of a collective voice in the workplace.
The new, four-year agreement includes defined overtime procedures, increased wage minimums, improved annual wage increases, a 15 per cent premium for employees taking on supervisory duties, increased sick and personal days and enhanced benefits.
Emily Gossman, Titmouse animator and bargaining committee member, believes the agreement will have ripple effects in the industry.
"I am a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all ships, and I think anything we can do to improve our working conditions at Titmouse can only help everybody else around us," she said.
It is estimated there are 30 animation companies in B.C. employing as many as 8,000 workers. Titmouse is the second unionized animation house in Canada after Quebec's Oasis Animation.
Gossman described the bargaining process as professional and amicable.
She believes the biggest win for workers in the agreement was establishing locked-in wage increases.
"Animation, like many industries, has experienced very flat wage growth over the past decade and longer," she said
"So having those minimums set in place, and having them be transparent to all of the workers in the industry ... is a huge gain for a ton of people that I think will continue to pay off for years."