Bectu welcomes focus on long hours problem in BFI skills review, calls for ‘rethink of the industry’s working culture’

29 June 2022

Bectu has welcomed the publication of the British Film Institute’s (BFI) Skills Review, released today.

Launched in June 2021, the BFI undertook the skills review on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in collaboration with industry bodies, national and regional screen agencies, trade bodies, unions and leading industry figures.

The UK-wide review examines the needs for training and skills development across the production sector for scripted film and high-end television and outlines a number of findings and recommendations in the face of increasing pressure on the industry.

Bectu welcomes the review’s acknowledgement that long-hours working remains a persistent problem for the industry and the need for more support for its freelance workforce.

This long-hours culture recently caused Bectu members to seek a new sectoral agreement in high-end television with the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact). In March this year, Bectu notified Pact that it intended to withdraw from the Bectu/Pact TV Drama Agreement in six months’ time if a re-negotiated agreement does not adequately address the industry’s wellbeing and health and safety crisis caused by the growing volume of work and excessive long hours culture.

Commenting on the skills review, Bectu National Secretary Spencer MacDonald, said:

“It’s critical that when we talk about skills shortages in the UK film and TV industry, we talk about working practices. It’s great to see the BFI skills review highlight the urgent need to improve working culture and practices across the industry.

“Most people working in production crew – where the real skills shortages are – work to a crushing daily schedule. The standard contracted working day is 11+1, not including Prep and Wrap, Grace Periods, or Overtime. Coupled with the unique commute that film and TV workers have, it means that the door-to-door working day adds up to well over 60 hours for most people.

“Earlier this year we informed Pact that we can no longer work to the existing terms, and we are seeking a new agreement that limits the day to 10+1 with penalty payments to disincentivise longer days. However, better planning and scheduling is also critical to truly tackle the long-hours culture and achieve better work/life balance for our members.

“At a time when the industry should be retaining and cultivating its skills base as well as attracting new social groups into a more diverse industry, it cannot afford to weather a skills exodus driven by unsustainable working practices.

“We urgently need a rethink of the industry’s working culture to create lasting and meaningful change for crew. It’s critical that employers work in partnership with the workforce and its representatives to establish healthier working practices and shore up the industry for the future.”