Following almost a year of intense negotiation, UK indie trade body Pact and broadcasting union Bectu have cleared the path for a new UK TV Drama Agreement to be struck with the union’s members finally voting in favor.
Pact and Bectu statements in the past few minutes have welcomed the result, which sets terms and conditions for the next three years from January 1.
A third ballot has taken place over the past 10 days and broadcasting union Bectu this time indicated it will accept Pact’s compromise on the agreement, which governs areas including working conditions, hours and wellbeing.
“This will provide stability for the industry at a time of economic challenge,” said the Pact statement. “The agreement covers all scripted including regional/nations drama, kids and comedy – productions that can be difficult to finance but are fundamental to the drama landscape because they are a training ground for new and diverse talent and crew members.”
Bectu Head Philippa Childs, whose full statement is below, said the “complex, protracted and at times difficult process” has ended with an agreement that will “provide a firm basis from which to move forward.” More detail on the updated terms is incoming.
The negotiations have been messy and sticking points have repeatedly emerged relating to areas such as overtime but an October delay gave both parties the opportunity to draft an agreement in full so as to avoid any doubt, according to a Bectu spokeswoman and Pact CEO John McVay at the time. Negotiations first broke down in February, revealed by Deadline, over an agreement that had stuck since 2017.
With this being the third ballot, the past months have seen the disagreement spilling out into the public sphere, resulting at times in media briefings from the two.
In September, just prior to the first ballot, which was “overwhelmingly” rejected by Bectu members, major producers such as Banijay, Bad Wolf and Element Pictures took the unprecedented step of writing to UK crew urging them to sign up to Pact’s agreement or risk “the whole of [UK] scripted TV being damaged,” and subsequently Pact invited commissioners to a “summit” to break the deadlock.
Producers feared that the initial conditions being demanded by Bectu would make some dramas almost impossible to shoot and Deadline understands streaming services had been considering pulling shows out of the UK if Bectu’s full demands were met due to what they would deem too sharp an increase in costs.
Had the agreement failed, drama producers would have been left in the tricky position of forging conditions on a show-by-show basis with no established framework. Rather than setting producers forth into this wild west, the pair have, however, continually extended negotiations in order to reach an agreement.
The resolution comes with the global cost-of-living crisis beginning to bite in the TV world, with costs increasing but the cash-strapped broadcasters struggling to up their budgets. Meanwhile, U.S. studios and streamers are in the midst of major restructures and mass layoffs, which is having a knock-on effect on the globalized UK industry.
Bectu’s Philippa Child’s statement in full
“This has been a complex, protracted and at times difficult process and I want to thank all those who voted and our reps, who have dedicated many hours over the last 18 months and have been determined to highlight important issues for our members.
“Our focus has always been on delivering improved terms and conditions for all those working in TV drama. We are pleased to have made some improvements but recognise there is still further progress to be made in addressing key issues that impact our members’ lives.
“We are confident this new agreement will provide a firm basis from which to move forward and we will maintain our commitment to improving work/life balance and changing the damaging long hours culture.
“We will be monitoring the new agreement’s implementation closely and will continue to work with the UK’s world-class film and TV industry to advance work-life balance for freelancers in the sector and achieve a more sustainable industry for all.”