John McVay, the boss of the UK TV producer trade body, has ignited a war of words with the British actors union as the pair prepare to thrash out a new deal that could be influenced by events Stateside.
Pact and Equity are sitting down over the coming months to negotiate and the union has similar demands to SAG-AFTRA, with Equity General Secretary Paul Fleming recently saying there could be industrial action in the UK in the next year, while he branded Pact the “AMPTP of the UK.”
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Speaking to UK press at the unveiling of the Pact 2022 Census yesterday, McVay labeled Fleming’s comments “unhelpful.”
“We’re always in the room with the unions and guilds and we’re already in the room with Equity,” said McVay. “[Fleming’s comments] may have warmed the cockles of his union colleagues but we’re always trying to fix things and want to keep everyone working.”
McVay rubbished the idea of UK TV workers going on strike – branding any action “really bad for the most poorly-paid people” – while drawing a line between labor laws in the UK and U.S.
“The industrial relationship in America is completely different,” added McVay. “They have guillotine agreements and cliff edges whereas we have a constant dialogue, which is very British.”
In the UK, Equity is negotiating separate agreements with Pact, the BBC and ITV, with the union demanding a 15% rise in basic pay as well as provisions around AI and secondary payments, much like SAG. Deadline recently revealed Equity’s negotiations with ITV are in the best shape and will include AI provisions for the first time if rubberstamped.
McVay, whose body represents hundreds of UK indies of varying sizes, also took umbrage with Fleming’s AMPTP-Pact comparison, declaring: “None of my members are Disney or Warner Bros. Discovery.”
“[Pact members] don’t have big multinational ownership,” he added. “They have a bit of money in the bank and that’s about it.”
No international socialist camaraderie
While Fleming has spent much time speaking with SAG since the strike started, including an address to UK union members alongside chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, McVay downplayed how much time he himself is communicating with U.S. counterparts.
“We talk to the AMPTP but clearly they are in a process with the unions and we are not part of some international socialist camaraderie,” he added. “The job of UK guilds, unions and trade bodies is to support British workers. What happens in America is what happens in America.”
McVay was speaking following a recent survey from below-the-line union Bectu that found 80% of members had had their employment directly impacted by the U.S. industrial disputes, and there were grumblings about the impact of the labor action at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Meanwhile, a petition calling for the UK government to create an “income replacement scheme” for those who have lost work has amassed 30,000 signatures.
The Pact Census 2022 showed a record year for the UK TV production sector, which generated $5B in revenue and saw U.S. streamer spend skyrocket by 133%. These results are unlikely to be replicated in 2023, however, in part due to the strikes.
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