By Simon Smith
My last couple of jobs have been very long contracts, and I haven’t had to agree pay for over a year. Before starting my most recent job, the Line Producer offered less than I’d been earning, which I definitely didn’t want to accept, but I also didn’t want to give my previous rate as I knew that BECTU had recently released an updated rate card for editors.
While we were on the phone discussing it, the Line Producer was able to search the BECTU website and see the rate card herself. She found the rate before I did, and simply said they would pay what was on the rate card - over a hundred pounds per week better than the original offer.
It also helped establish my expected hours - they were suggesting an 11-day fortnight buyout, but the rate card allowed me to set a five day week at ’50-hours’ and argue that if we were asked to do a 6th day, that would be charged as a ’60 hour week'. They couldn’t afford more than the base rate, so therefore I was never expected to work late or weekends.
Over 6 months, it’s probably left me a couple of thousand pounds better off, and got me home each evening. If you’re unsure about paying money to BECTU, the first year is £120 (which is tax-deductible, so at the base rate, you’ll only be £96 out of pocket), and this single pay deal has already made it worth it for me. From the second year, it’s about 1% of earnings, but as the rate card is reviewed and updated, it makes sure that wages are going up with inflation, so continues to prove its worth.
Since joining, I also learned that within BECTU there is a Post Production and Facilities committee who work towards improving standards in everything from pay and conditions to childcare to dealing with problems or disputes, and they negotiate with production companies and broadcasters to agree on fair practices. The longer I’ve been a member of BECTU, the more I’ve realised how good it is for all of us.