Fremantle Adopting Covid Clauses That Preserve Crew Locked-In With out Pay – .
EXCLUSIVE: Thames, the Fremantle-owned producer behind Too Hot To Handle and Britain’s Got Talent, is one of several UK production outfits to insert controversial coronavirus clauses into crew contracts that freelancers out of their pockets and unemployed for up to three weeks could do when a shot is exposed.
. has received and checked screenshots of Covid clauses in three different Thames contracts. They state that during the first three weeks of a suspension the freelancer “remains exclusive to the company” and Thames “is not required to pay the individual fee and that there is no vacation pay.”
The terms have caused concern among freelancers and some refuse to sign them. Two sources, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the Covid clauses are in crew contracts for Netflix hits Too Hot To Handle and ITV shows like Family Fortunes. UK Got Talent crew were also asked to sign similar deals before ITV shut down production last month.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” showrunner Bruce Miller on Covid-19 challenges and the end of the series
Thames’ parent company, Fremantle UK, said the terms were agreed by producer trade organization Pact and have been industry-wide since last year. The production group added that it failed to enforce the clauses, referring to the language in agreements that state that freelancers can apply for written consent to seek alternative employment during the suspension. When asked why the clauses are used if they are not implemented, Fremantle made no response.
. knows that other companies are adopting the clauses, but Thames has become a lightning rod to the problem among freelancers in the entertainment industry and the company’s terms and conditions have been reported to the Bectu union. Two people familiar with the matter acknowledged that the clauses are widespread but said that some manufacturers do not use them while others take a more flexible approach. For example, ITV Studios-supported South Shore took them on in all shows, including last year’s ITV entertainment series Don’t Rock The Boat, but cut them out of contracts when challenged.
The terms also appear in screenwriters’ freelance contracts, although there is evidence that the crew will be compensated if tools are shot down, albeit below London’s living wage, under the agreements of the International Federation of Cinematographers.
The clauses are an example of deeply ingrained industrial labor practices that the pandemic has cast in an irreconcilable light. Freelancers point to practice as an example of contract workers once again at potentially catastrophic financial risk during the coronavirus crisis after thousands were devastated by the month-long production hiatus in 2020.
The producers and their trade association pact will inform you that they are only protecting their own interests as they are at the mercy of broadcasters and streamers who have the authority to suspend broadcasts in the event of a coronavirus incident. Producers also view the Covid clauses as an essential crutch to get production going again and provide jobs to the professional community.
Fremantle UK said it worked out the contract clauses using pact literature that was distributed when production resumed last year. In fact, the language used in Thames agreements is almost identical to the Pact template, although Thames’ version goes even further when docking vacation pay.
Pact updated its scriptless freelance contract to reflect the pandemic and removed the Covid-19 suspension clauses from the long-standing force majeure clauses. These clauses reflect the commissioning agreements for public service broadcasters, which give broadcasters the right to stop production for three weeks before deciding whether to continue filming or cancel the project.
South Shores “Don’t Rock The Boat”
Before the pandemic, these clauses were rarely or never used. They relate to catastrophic events such as war, an “act of God”, or the death of a leading contributor. The problem is that these suspensions have become commonplace and freelancers say they are at the end of terms that should only be used in really exceptional circumstances.
“I have colleagues who have not worked for seven months, have children and are fighting for money, and then they are asked to sign these clauses. It’s a lack of empathy for people’s lives, ”said a freelancer familiar with the Thames contracts. Another added, “If I lose my job, how can you expect me to be out of work for three weeks? It is ridiculous. It’s just something I would never sign. “
The pact’s deputy CEO Max Rumney admitted that the pandemic has raised freelancers’ awareness of the force majeure clauses. “The crew, who have likely signed these agreements for years, have become aware that Covid-19 is now a situation where a force majeure clause may have to be applied. That would have been very unusual in the past, ”he said.
Rumney added that the templates are not gospel and can be customized by producers to suit their own needs. “The template says you are not required to pay the crew member, but you could if you wish, and I know members who do. Some members pay half a rate, others don’t. It’s not black and white, it depends on the circumstances of the Covid event and the finances of the program, ”he explained.
Bectu has been made aware that the clauses are in circulation while union leader Philippa Childs has been made aware of a Thames contract. She urged producers either to pay freelancers during the suspension or to allow them to seek alternative employment.
“Our principle is that freelancers don’t really have to suffer in the current circumstances,” Childs told .. “When people go back to work they want to be able to earn, and if they can’t because production is interrupted, they should be able to earn elsewhere. Producers can’t have it both ways. “
Concerns have also been raised about Pact’s script production template contract, although the difference to this template is that it was created in collaboration with Bectu. The International Federation of Cinematographers has seen evidence that freelancers are not paid or are not given a flat fee of £ 350 ($ 492) per week in the event of suspensions, “in violation of all accepted norms of social dialogue”.
A spokeswoman for Fremantle UK said: “This clause was included in Covenant production contracts in response to the Bible pandemic for resumption of production last June. We never enforced it, but it is being used industry-wide and is part of a series of measures to help the industry get back into production. With the restrictions lifted, we will continue to review the agreements. “
The deadline asked Netflix if it was satisfied with the clauses that were included in the contracts of Too Hot To Handle’s crew members, given the work done to protect freelance pay during the pandemic. The streamer declined to comment. Seasons 2 and 3 of the hit reality show were filmed in a row without a break from Covid and the show is now in post-production. Netflix paid cast and crew wages when its productions shut down last year, while the streamer poured £ 1.75 million into the film and TV charity’s emergency fund for freelancers in need.