DNEG forced to strike improved pay deal with business partners after staff stick together

20 May 2020


A large number of Bectu members, in association with many more non-members working in the Feature Animation Division of DNEG have forced the animation and VFX employer to seek help from business partners to replace lost staff incomes.

The company had planned to reduce the income of many of their staff by between 20% and 25% claiming adverse business conditions due to COVID-19. This prompted 169 people to sign a collective grievance which the company is yet to formally respond to.

However, following resistance from staff, and a hasty re-negotiation with business partners, the threatened pay-cut has effectively been withdrawn for many.

Members affected have advised the union that the staff in question will now still be paid 95% of their salary, with the remaining 5% paid as a ‘completion bonus’ on the project that they are working on thanks to a deal DNEG have been forced to reach with business partners.

Though the company are claiming that this isn’t a climbdown, salaries will still be paid by DNEG and contracts of employment will still be with DNEG.

Other staff at DNEG who have also been refusing to accept the pay cut have been sent emails from the company threating them with a consultation that is likely to result in a “dismiss-and-rehire” imposition of the 20% or 25% pay cut.

Bectu is now focussed on recruiting more DNEG employees to ensure that it reaches the required density of members to achieve Trade Union Recognition. If this is possible, they will be able to insist that any future proposed changes of this kind would have to go through a formal consultation process.

Bectu Assistant National Secretary Paul Evans said:

“We urge DNEG to salvage what is left of their reputation for being a good employer by withdrawing its “dismiss-and-rehire” threats. They should give our members the meaningful consultation that they have requested.

They obviously aren’t treating staff fairly, even though the claim to be treating everyone the same in their FAQ advice documents. They have created a fig-leaf claim about a business-partnership finding the funding, but our members can see this for the sleight of hand that it is.

“Our members have requested – and been refused – a detailed glimpse into DNEG’s trading position. Until they have the information that they have asked for in their collective grievance, it is hard for them to believe anything that they are being told by the company.

“If we had union recognition at DNEG, it looks like everyone could have resisted this pay-cut. If the staff are now prepared to join we can force the company to be more conciliatory in future. We are consulting our members on next steps”

Speaking on condition of confidentiality, Bectu members have contacted the union to express thanks for the role it played in galvanising staff to refuse the draconian cuts:

One member emailed the union to say:

“I wanted to thank you and the entire Bectu team. Many of us in the Feature Animation Division have reached an agreement with DNEG that is far more favourable. I am incredibly grateful for the support we have received from Bectu.  It has showed me that it is so crucial to stick together as employees when companies make unreasonable proposals.”

Another contacted to say:

“I just want to thank Bectu for all the help this past month. You helped us to know what our rights were and we felt empowered to speak up for ourselves at work. By having solidarity in our department, we were able to negotiate a much better deal. Not one person agreed to the pay cut and that kind of commitment to the group was a powerful statement to the company. I feel more relaxed as a member of the union now, knowing that someone has my back when I need it.

Bectu has published detailed guidance to all staff in Animation and VFX on how to respond to proposals to cut wages, terms or conditions during the Covid-19 crisis.